Walter Payton College Prep forfeits baseball game against Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep

April 29, 2013 4:16:23 PM PDT
As Walter Payton College Prep's baseball team took to the field to play against Taft High School Monday afternoon, questions remain about what exactly led to the cancellation of Payton's Saturday night game against Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep in the Roseland neighborhood on the Far South Side.

Brooks Prep coaches said they were told a group of Payton parents would not let their children travel to the South Side school because they felt it was in an unsafe neighborhood to be in at night.

"The parents didn't want to come down here due to the neighborhood we were in," Brooks assistant coach Bert Redmond said. "They were in fear of their child's lives. They were afraid of being in a drive by shooting. I was kind of appalled."

According to Redmond, Payton's coach even came to the game and apologized for the parents' behavior.

The no-show was hurtful to some players.

"I was really disappointed because I just wanted to come out and play baseball. When I heard I was shocked," Brooks baseball player Tyrion Brooks said.

"It's heartbreaking to know a team wouldn't play us because of the location of our stadium. We come out here every day and we dedicate our lives to playing the sport of baseball," Brooks player David McKnight said.

CPS officials say the reason the team didn't make the game is that parents and teammates were informed of the game at the last minute and there was no transportation provided for the team.

There will be a makeup game between the schools on Saturday May 4 or 11 in the evening at Brooks Field in Roseland, according to CPS.

Alderman Anthony Beale, who volunteers as a coach for Brooks Prep, was there when all this happened Saturday and believes the Payton Prep coach's version of events.

"We know exactly what it was," Beale said. "You can't sugar coat this thing and try to spin it in a certain light to make it lighter on one side or the other. It is what it is."

A few other Payton parents say they understand what happened and would have done the same thing.

"If it was me and plans changed at the last minute to go so far south in the city I just wouldn't be too wild about it," Payton parent Don said.

"I'm not letting my kid travel all over. I'm not letting my kid go to the South Side by herself. I'm not letting my kid go to the North Side by herself. They need to be supervised," an anonymous Payton parent said.

The schools' principals released a joint statement:

"This has been a very unfortunate misunderstanding between our school communities. It is time to move past this and allow our student athletes to focus on their futures. We look forward to both of our schools meeting on the field again soon."

Payton Principal Tim Devine addressed the issue in a statement read to his school's students this morning. According to Devine, the media has misreported the facts.

"Obviously, the media chose to pick up the story and morphed it from issues completely internal to Payton's baseball program and concocted it into something that it is not. The media did not seek comment from me Saturday night and published stories that had a gross misrepresentation of the facts. In the absence of fact, fiction found its way into the story," he said.

Devine explained what he says happened.

"Payton's head coach did cancel the game, but the reasons for the cancellation of the game had nothing to do with race or purported violence in the Roseland community.

"What I have found thus far is that the cancellation came about due to poor communication by the coach to our baseball parents about the date and time of the game, who would be responsible for transportation to and from the game, and which players would dress for the game. This poor communication led to frustration on the part of some families and the ultimate cancellation of the game. Again, the cancellation had nothing to do at all with the location of Brooks in our Chicago community.

"Importantly, many of our Payton students hail from the Roseland community and many of our Payton students have friends at Brooks. Additionally, as most of you know, our good friend, D'Andre Weaver, who was our Assistant Principal here at Payton last year, is now the Principal at Brooks. Payton has many ties to Brooks and the community in which it is situated. Payton will continue to have excellent relations with the good people at Brooks. This situation was not borne at all of concern with Brooks, but came about due to miscommunication within the Payton baseball program," he said.

Still, some parents at Brooks say what's done is done.

"It's elite kids going to both schools so I can't see why they feel the need to say their kids are better," Brooks parent James Jordan said.


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