With the final days of 2016 counting down, Little League® takes a look back at a year that was filled with historic championship performances, memorable moments, and exciting new changes to help improve baseball and softball for nearly 2.4 million players around the world. Here are some of the highlights from 2016.
Invested in the Future
Throughout 2016, Little League Baseball and Softball continued to invest time and resources in developing the future of the game with the help of the Grow the Game Program and PLAY BALL Weekend. Along with its efforts in developing opportunities for young boys and girls in the United States, Little League has continued to expand on a global level with an increased role in Australia, tremendous volunteer efforts in the Philippines, a rise of development in Brazil, a growth of softball overseas, a visit to Cuba by a collection of Little Leaguers® from Vermont, and a new focus on the Tee Ball Divisions with the help of the Tee Ball Curriculum and the Tee Ball Tuesdays campaign.
As the world’s largest youth sports organization, Little League strives towards the growth and development of its relationships with other organizations around the world. In 2016, Little League further expanded its relationship with ESPN through a record number of television broadcasts and an increased use of video replay at the Little League World Series, built upon its relationship with Major League Baseball and Commissioner Rob Manfred, worked with MLB Advanced Media to provide Regional and World Series highlights, and teamed up with USA Baseball to help announce the new USA Baseball Bat Standard for 2018. Throughout the year, Little League also had the opportunity to strengthen its marketing relationships. As a continuation of support for Little League’s mission and values, new relationships have been forged, enabling the announcement of a new technology partnership with DICK’s Team Sports HQ and the addition of Visionworks to become the Official Eyewear and Eye Care Retailer of Little League Baseball and Softball in 2017.
Each year, Little League is proud to acknowledge its volunteers for all of their hard work and dedication to the Little League program and their community. Along with the recipients of the annual Little League Awards, Little League International established a new Softball Volunteer of the Year Award in 2016. As part of the 2016 awards, Little League also honored the Michael J. Buczek Little League for their efforts in the community, enshrined three new members into the Little League Hall of Excellence, recognized 10 Lycoming County High School members as Carl E. Stotz Little League Baseball® Scholarship Recipients, honored American Honda for its 20-year corporate partnership with Little League, announced the winners of the Regional ASAP Awards, and congratulated George and Laura Springer on being named the George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year.
Expanded Educational Efforts
In 2016, Little League continued its progress in expanding the educational efforts it provides to its volunteers, parents, and stakeholders through the launch and development of Little League University, expansion of multimedia storytelling efforts on Videos.LittleLeague.org, the offering of new District Administrator training, Regional Roundtable meetings in the United States and in the Europe and Africa Region, and meetings by both the International Advisory Board and the Little League International Board of Directors.
Celebrate Championship Successes
Each year, the culmination of the Little League Baseball and Softball season comes with the Little League World Series and 2016 was no different. Throughout the course of all nine World Series tournaments, Little League fans saw incredible performances, memorable moments and exciting events that will forever be ingrained in the history of the program. Some of the highlights include the memorable perfect season by Maine-Endwell Little League, an exciting day at the 2016 Little League Challenger Division® Exhibition Game, sights and sounds from the Little League Softball® World Series, and much more.
Changes for the Future
With a storied history, Little League continues to develop new ways to ensure the Little League Baseball and Softball program provides the best possible opportunity for young players to develop courage, loyalty, and character through the game. As part of that process, some changes were made in 2016 to help pave the way for the future of the program. Some of these changes include the restructuring of the teenage divisions, an increase in tournament enrollment fees, and an adjustment to the age determination date.
Shared Moments That Will Be Remembered Forever
While Little League always shares a special place in the hearts of those involved around the world, the 2016 season had a number of moments that will be instilled in the hearts of many for years to come. Some of the heartwarming moments from 2016 include JT Garcia’s memorable home run, Joel Jensen’s heart-touching mound visit, George Springer’s congratulations video to his parents, the Little League Softball® World Series #WhyWePlay stories, Snow Canyon Little League’s pride and motivation for playing, and Billy Spong calling his shot during the 2016 Little League Challenger Division Exhibition Game.