What will happen when those little leaguers grow up?

All week the young ballplayers of Jackie Robinson West kept us good company through the bad news.

Through the murder of 9-year-old Antonio Smith in a Chicago neighborhood not far from the ones where the ballplayers live.

Through the beheading of journalist James Foley by Islamic terrorists.

Through the turmoil in Ferguson, Mo., where the shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old by a white police officer had triggered days of looting and protests and the arrival of the National Guard.

Violence, fear, anger, grief, hatred.

Through it all, the boys played ball and made a lot of people feel better.

"Six runs, four hits and no errors for Chicago," the announcer said just after I turned on the radio Thursday night to catch the end of Chicago vs. Philly in the Little League World Series.

I don't have cable TV so I had to tune in the old-fashioned way, on AM radio. The pleasantly fuzzy sound snapped me back to the ballgames I listened to with my dad when I was a kid.

That has been part of the team's charm. They've made a lot of adults feel like kids. Innocent, light-hearted, excited.

Connected, too.

While I was puttering around my kitchen with the radio on, people all over the city were soaking up the game.

These boys — age 13 and under, African-American, from South Side neighborhoods more often publicized for trouble — let us feel like we were all citizens of the same great city, all part of the winning team.

Nothing to argue about. Nothing to hate on. No villains.

On the South Side, friends and neighbors of the team gathered in a community center to watch and cheer. On the North Side, people who rarely go to the South Side gathered in bars to share in the elation. Politicians tweeted their pride.

This was a version of Chicago everybody could love.

But as the voice on the AM radio crackled on — a swing by Cummings and it's a one-run game — I found myself wondering what life will hold for these boys when the games are done and the crowds are gone.

Within a few years, they'll be young men in a culture that is hard on young black men.

Will they get the education they'll need to move on in the world, to avoid the traps that snare so many African-American males?

Will the kinds of opportunities opened to them through baseball — to learn, to succeed, to be applauded — be available to them when they're 18, 25, 40?

Will people who found them adorable as boys be afraid to encounter them on the street when they're grown up?

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