Hawkins throws support behind LLWS team

Memories of his youth baseball experience inspire donation

Hawkins throws support behind LLWS team

DENVER -- Seeing the Jackie Robinson West Little League team out of Chicago qualify for the Little League World Series brought back memories for Rockies closer LaTroy Hawkins, who grew up in Gary, Ind.

"Their Little League used to play my Little League in the summertime," Hawkins said. "One Saturday we'd go to their ballpark and they'd have a cookout for us, and the other Saturday they'd come to our ballpark for a cookout and a doubleheader."

The memory was so fond that Hawkins reached out to Bill Haley, the Jackie Robinson West Little League director. Hawkins talked to former Major Leaguers Jacque Jones and Junior Spivey, his agent, Larry Reynolds, plus noted sports writer Bob Nightengale and some of his friends involved in AAU basketball until he could contact Haley, whose father ran the league when Hawkins played for Gary.

Not only Hawkins, but B.J. and Justin Upton of the Braves, Torii Hunter of the Tigers and Wesley Wright of the Cubs donated a combined $20,000 that was split among the families of the players, so they could attend the tournament in South Williamsport, Pa.

"It reminded me of my Little League team, and I'm a product of the Little League," Hawkins said Saturday, smiling. "I know I'd have wanted my parents there, and I knew my parents couldn't afford to get there.

"I told him what we were thinking about, that we wanted to make sure they had the support in the stands. And the parents that couldn't afford to go, we wanted to make sure they were there. I asked him what other bills did they have from expenses, and he said they had a bill from Indianapolis for 11 days. We made sure we took care of that, also. That was a pretty big bill.

"I just reached out to some of my buddies. It was easy."

Hawkins said the Little League World Series hit home in other ways. One of the best players in the tournament is Mo'ne Davis, a 13-year-old girl who pitched -- and threw a two-hit, eight-strikeout shutout -- for a team from Philadelphia against West Nashville on Friday. Hawkins' daughter, Troi, who has shown plenty of ability in dance and basketball, reminded her dad that he didn't sign her up for baseball.

"It got me in trouble with my daughter at home," Hawkins said. He added that she'll sign up for softball. Now, with Mo'ne Davis as inspiration, there may be baseball in Troi's her future as well, if she can be signed up.

"Maybe she can still qualify for fall baseball," Hawkins said.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.