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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2012 > January-April > Little League Mourns Passing of Challenger Division Pioneer and Little League Volunteer Jake Hardison

Little League Mourns Passing of Challenger Division Pioneer and Little League Volunteer Jake Hardison

Little League Mourns Passing of Challenger Division Pioneer and Little League Volunteer Jake Hardison


Jake Hardison

Little League International  mourns the passing today of Jake Hardison of Virginia, a dedicated Little League volunteer and an integral person in the development of the Little League Challenger program. Mr. Hardison was 85 years old.

Mr. Hardison, who lived in Virginia Beach, Va., was a Little League volunteer for 50 years, serving as the District Administrator for Virginia District 8 from 1975 to 2010.

“Mr. Hardison worked tirelessly for a half-century on behalf of children he came in contact with and the game of baseball,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “He positively touched the lives of thousands of children and Little League volunteers around the world through his efforts. Mr. Hardison was the epitome of what a Little League volunteer is and why they are the backbone of our organization.”

Little League Baseball and Softball established the Challenger Division in 1989 to provide boys and girls with developmental and physical challenges the ability to enjoy the game of baseball. Little did he know, but three years later, Mr. Hardison would start a small annual Challenger event that would grow to become a worldwide event.

In 1992, Mr. Hardison organized and held the first Challenger Tournament and Fun Weekend in Norfolk, Va., with 16 teams participating. By 2006, the event had grown to the point the Little League International Board of Directors approved the re-designation of the event to the Challenger Little League Baseball World Jamboree. In 2006, more than 80 teams participated in the first jamboree.

On May 11, the seventh annual jamboree will be held in Norfolk, 21 years after Mr. Hardison formulated an idea to host an event for the Challenger Division participants. This year nearly 100 teams are expected to take part in the jamboree.

“Mr. Hardison has certainly played a vital role in increasing the visibility and growth of Little League’s Challenger Division,” Sam Ranck, the League Development Manager and Director of the Challenger Division for Little League, said. “His vision in 1992 has turned into the centerpiece event of the Challenger Division and one of the top annual events in the Little League organization. Without his hard work, the Challenger Division would not be in the position it is.”

During the course of his efforts on behalf of Little League, Mr. Hardison earned numerous awards. Mr. Hardison, a former police officer, received the Little League Meritorious Service Award in 1998 for his work as a District Administrator and in 2004 was the recipient of the Peter J. McGovern Distinguished Service Award, which is an award at each Little League International Congress that recognizes the special efforts of an individual who has embraced the ideals of Little League.

In 2000, Mr. Hardison, who served as the Chairman of the 2004 Little League International Congress in Virginia Beach,  received the Little League Challenger Award for his efforts on behalf of that program.

People outside the Little League organization also realized the contributions of Mr. Hardison to the game of baseball. In 2008, Old Dominion University recognized Mr. Hardison by naming him the recipient of the Bud Metheny Award. The award is given for outstanding service to baseball, in particular youth baseball and is named for the former ODU baseball coach who won more than 400 games in 31 years of coaching. Old Dominion, the alma mater of Little Leaguer Justin Verlander, the 2011 Cy Young Award winner, is located in Norfolk.

Mr. Hardison is survivied by his wife of 56 years, Becky Hardison; sons, Kenny Hardison and wife, Rita; Mickey Hardison and wife, Nancy; and David Jackson; daughters, Stephanie Hardison and Patricia Hardison; grandson, Johnny Payne and wife, Amanda; three grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Friday, March 16, at Rosewood Kellum Funeral Home. A service will be held at 2 p.m., Saturday, March 17, at the funeral home with burial to follow in Rosewood Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Challenger Little League c/o Wanda Vannoy, 724 Holladay Lane, Virginia Beach, Va., 23455. You may pay condolences to the family, at: www.kellumfuneralhome.com.