Social media has taken its fair share of jabs at Chris Janes, including one that compared him to infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman.
“I almost fell out of my chair laughing,” Janes said of the comparison between him and Bartman, who reached for and deflected a foul ball that left fielder Moises Alou had leapt for and appeared ready to catch during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series.
Bartman was ushered from the Wrigley Field stands by security guards as angry Cubs fans showered him with insults and vulgarities. He was placed under police protection for a time when his name and address were made public on Major League Baseball message boards.
Of course, a comparison to Bartman is mild compared to some of the criticisms lobbed at Janes, vice president of the Evergreen Park Athletic Association, who filed the initial complaints that ultimately led Little League International to strip Jackie Robinson West of its title.
Janes has been branded a racist and, like Bartman, required police protection at his home after receiving death threats and other intimidating phone calls minutes after JRW was stripped of its title on Feb. 11. Others accused him of sour grapes because JRW defeated the Evergreen Park team 43-2 in four innings.
Janes has not returned to work after his employer decided his presence might present a safety threat.
“They’ve been super supportive,” Janes said of his employer.
Bartman has eluded the public eye in the years since the incident at Wrigley Field. Janes, on the other hand, has fulfilled countless requests for interviews and has not been shaken despite criticism from leaders of the black community, including Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Michael Pfleger among others.
“It just got really convenient to point the finger this way,” Janes said. “It’s deflection.”
Little League International’s decision to strip JRW of its title was not the result of his initial compliant, Janes insists.
In fact, Little League officials initially ruled they were confident that JRW had met residency requirements and considered the issue closed. But in early February, officials met in Chicago with presidents from JRW’s sister leagues.
At that meeting, presidents from the South Side, Rosemoor and Roseland league said they did not approve any changes made to Jackie Robinson West’s 2014 boundaries that infringed on their territory, DNAinfo reported.
“Those guys are hiding in the shadows. They are really in a tough spot,” Janes said, adding that presidents of the sister leagues likely did not want to blow the whistle on JRW’s World Series run even though they were aware of JRW misdeeds.
“It would have been a lot more convenient for me if they’d done this sooner,” Janes kidded about the other league presidents.
Janes said the vicious remarks and accusations aimed his way have been limited to social media. Conversely, friends, neighbors and members of the Evergreen Park community “have been supportive,” he said.
He added that his children have not taken any grief for his decision.
“Kids are talking about it, but nobody has been abusive,” Janes said.
Janes may forever be connected with the Little League International investigation that led to stripping the Jackie Robinson West Little League team of its national title, but he seems at ease with that association.
“This is in line with our league’s core values,” he said.
In recent days, JRW officials have hired lawyers to investigate the decision to revoke the team's national championship.
"We are going to take our time, we are going to learn the facts," attorney Victor Henderson said last week at a news conference. "There is no talk of a lawsuit. There is not enough information yet."
"Until we know that the process for attacking the title was fair, aboveboard, transparent ... the story isn't over yet."