"I'm happy for them, excited for the kids," said Hawkins, who grew up in Gary, Ind. "It's a dream come true. Every Little Leaguer from the time Little League started until now, that's their dream to make it to the [Little League] World Series. To go on the run that they went on does a lot, especially for African-American league baseball. Other kids around the country, around the world, see those kids playing and want to play some baseball, too. So it's a lot larger than just playing the championship today.
"And they don't even know it. They're just playing baseball.
After the Illinois team came back to beat Nevada on Saturday to reach Sunday's championship game, Hawkins said he sent a one-word text to Bill Haley, the Jackie Robinson West Little League director. Hawkins' message was "Wow."
Jack Etkin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.