The original Little League pariah has weighed in on the current eligibility scandal that led to the revocation of Jackie Robinson West’s U.S. title in Chicago. You may be unsurprised to learn that he has a lot of sympathy for the players caught in the middle.
Almonte famously took America by storm in 2001, leading a Little League All-Star squad from the Bronx to the World Series in Williamsport, where it finally fell short when he reached his innings allotment and had to stop pitching. Months later it was revealed that Almonte had been competing on a fake birth certificate that falsified his age, making him 12 instead of 14. Sports Illustrated eventually exposed that discrepancy by taking a trip to the Dominican Republic and looking up the public records there.
As with the Jackie Robinson West scenario, Almonte’s Bronx squad was stripped of its victories in Williamsport. He felt that wiping out his club’s accomplishments was unfair at the time, and it appears he still holds a grudge about the way Little League handled his reprimand. As such, it comes as little surprise that he’s expressing plenty of sympathy for the Jackie Robinson West players who have been punished despite actions that they may not have had anything to do with themselves.
“Those African-American kids did good, and they want to take that away from them. I don’t think that’s fair,” Almonte told DNAinfo of Chicago. “I don’t want to sound racist, but it’s always something against Latin or African-American teams.”
You can listen to Almonte’s full interview with the media outlet directly below:
Here’s where Almonte made the more direct connection between his situation and the one facing Jackie Robinson West:
“When I used to play, my father and the coach and the other coaches at that time, I know they messed up, but it wasn’t my fault,” said Almonte, 27, who said he currently moves heavy furniture into new hotel buildings in addition to serving as an assistant baseball coach at Cardinal Hayes High School in New York City.
“And it’s not those kids’ [JRW] fault either,” Almonte added. “That’s not fair to them. That’s not fair for the whole Chicago city. I know you are proud of that team.”
Of course, there’s little debating the point that Almonte is making. No one wants to blame the Jackie Robinson West players, and few people believe that they had any awareness of what was happening to put their squad together. Yet, Little League had to do something, and they sent a bold message by stripping the national crown as they did … even if that feels wrong to Almonte and plenty of others.
“”They were there for one goal: to win the whole Little League [title]. Those kids, they did their job,” Almonte told DNAinfo. “They played the game the way they’re supposed to play.”