When people talk about the Jackie Robinson West team and blame the adults who took in kids from outside the boundaries that the Little League organization set, remember that those adults may be saviors to those kids. They’re the ones buying them shoes when they need it or an extra protein drink after the game.
Sometimes I wasn’t even sure how the scouts or AAU coaches found me. It seemed like a miracle. I kept clawing my way up the ladder to better and better teams, kind of like a mercenary. I remember I was playing for the Lakeland Road Runners and we got whooped by the Orlando Red Raiders. They were like professionals to us. After the game, their coach came up to me and asked if I’d want to play on his team. The Red Raiders were big, man. It felt like I had just made the New York Yankees. I remember looking at my buddies on the Road Runners and shrugging, like, “Well, see ya!”