From 2001 to 2008, hundreds of Little League® Tee Ball and Little League Challenger Division® players took the field, only this field wasn't your normal Little League field. Situated on the South Lawn of the White House, President George W. Bush welcomed Little Leaguers® from multiple U.S. states and Puerto Rico to the White House for the "Little League Tee Ball on The South Lawn" program.
President Bush played Little League in Midland, Texas, and was the first Little League graduate to be elected President of the United States. His passion for Little League began in Tee Ball. The Tee Ball on the South Lawn initiative was designed to help grow interest in baseball and softball among children. Before each South Lawn game, the President recited the Little League pledge and offered a few encouraging remarks to the players, volunteers, and special guests in attendance. Prior to one of the games President Bush said, "I wanted to be the Willie Mays of my generation, but I couldn't hit a curveball. So instead, I ended up being President."
The first Little League Tee Ball game on The South Lawn was played in May 2001. The games followed Little League Tee Ball rules, meaning each game was one inning long, every player got up to bat and had a turn on defense, and no score was kept.
Throughout President Bush's eight years in the White House, 20 games were played with 563 Little Leaguers getting the opportunity to enjoy the unique experience of playing on the South Lawn of the White House. Many themes highlighted the events and several featured an honorary commissioner. For one game, President Bush was joined by fellow Little League alum and retired professional baseball player, Nolan Ryan, who served as the game's commissioner. One theme involved an Army-Navy match-up with Little Leaguers from Fort Belvoir playing the Norfolk Naval Base tee ballers. In June 2001, both teams hailed from the nation's capital, while six years later, Jose M. Rodriguez Little League of Mantai, Puerto Rico, became the first international Tee Ball team to participate.
On July 16, 2008, the second-to-last Tee Ball on the South Lawn game was played. The rules were the same, but the participants weren't all from the same team. Instead of having players from two leagues meet for a one-inning game, one child was selected from each state and the District of Columbia. The effect was 51 different children, all from different states, getting the chance to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of playing together. The players were organized into teams representing North, South, East, and West, and on this day two games were played. One player, Blake Money, represented Florida, and then went on to compete in back-to-back Little League Baseball® World Series in 2013 and 2014 for the Southeast Region Champions from South Nashville Little League in Tennessee.
Throughout President Bush's two terms in office, the Little Leaguers who were part of the Tee Ball on the South Lawn experience made memories to last a lifetime. Along with having the distinction of playing in front of President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, the players and local league volunteers enjoyed a picnic in their honor and were presented commemorative baseballs bearing the seal of the President of the United States from the Commander-in-Chief himself.
Since the last Little League Tee Ball on the South Lawn game was played, it has served as inspiration for other countries to follow suit. In the summer of 2016, Little League Canada held a "Tee Ball on The Hill" event with Ontario Districts 2 and 6 - Ottawa West and East - assembling Tee Ball players for a game played at Parliament Hill in the country's capital city of Ottawa.
Currently, artifacts from Little League Tee Ball on the South Lawn are on display at the World of Little League®: Peter J. McGovern Museum and Official Store. These include one of the commemorative baseballs and one of the commemorative softballs from Little League Tee Ball on the South Lawn, a baseball card of President Bush, a piece of the actual fencing used on the South Lawn as well as a banner that says "Tee Ball on the South Lawn."
Full list of teams to participate in "Little League Tee Ball on the South Lawn":
Game 20: September 7 – Salute to the Troops
• Players who were children of active duty U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard personnel (26 players). Players came from many different leagues/areas, and were divided into two teams.
Game 19: July 16 – All-Star Game
• Players from all 50 U.S. States and the District of Columbia (51 players). Players came from many different leagues/areas, and were divided into four teams.
Game 18: June 30 – Hispanic Americans theme
• José M. Rodriguez Little League, Manati, Puerto Rico (13 players)
• Cramer Hill Little League, Camden, N.J. (13 players)
Game 17: July 15 – Jackie Robinson theme
• Wrigley Little League, Los Angeles, Calif. (14 players)
• Inner City Little League, Brooklyn, N.Y. (11 players)
Game 16: June 27 – Girls softball theme
• Allegany County Little League, Cumberland, Md. (12 players)
• Luray Little League, Luray, Va. (11 players)
Game 15: July 30 – Little League Challenger Division® Game
• Thurmont (Md.) Little League (13 players)
• Shady Spring (W.Va.) Little League (12 players)
Game 14: June 23 – Military theme
• McGuire (N.J.) Air Force Base Little League (12 players)
• Dolcom Little League, Naval Submarine Base New London, Groton, Conn. (11 players)
Game 13: July 24 – Little League Challenger Division® Game
• District 12 Little League, Williamsport, Pa. (15 players)
• West University Little League, Houston, Texas (12 players)
Game 12: June 26 – Little League Urban Initiative/The President’s “Helping America’s Youth” initiative
• Jackie Robinson South Ward Little League, Newark, N.J. (15 players)
• South Side Little League, Chicago, Ill. (12 players)
Game 11: July 11 – Little League Challenger Division® Game
• Middletown-Odessa-Townsend (MOT) Little League, Delaware (12 players)
• Little League District 23 of Lancaster County, Pa. (15 players)
Game 10: June 13 – Military theme
• Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C. (13 players)
• Cherry Point (N.C.) Marine Corps Air Station, Havelock Little League (15 players)
Game 9: September 7 – “Women in sports” theme
• Milwood Little League of Kalamazoo, Mich. (12 players)
• Babe Ruth team from Hamilton, N.J. (13 players)
Game 8: July 27 – Little League Challenger Division® Game
• Leedom Little League, Ridley Park, Pa. (14 players)
• Marley Area Little League, Glen Burnie, Md. (15 players)
Game 7: June 22 – Military theme
• Naval Base Little League, Norfolk, Va. (13 players)
• Fort Belvoir (Va.) Little League (15 players)
Game 6: September 22 – Little League Challenger Division® Game
• Waynesboro (Va.) Little League (19 players)
• Babe Ruth team, East Brunswick, N.J. (12 players)
Game 5: June 23 – No theme
• South Berkeley Little League, Inwood, W.Va. (12 players)
• Babe Ruth team, Washington, D.C. (15 players)
Game 4: May 5 – No theme (Note: Teams were originally scheduled to play on September 16, 2001, but the game was postponed because of the 9/11 attacks)
• 6-11 Little League, Trenton, N.J. (15 players)
• Uniondale Little League, Long Island, N.Y. (12 players)
Game 3: July 16 – Little League Challenger Division® Game
• Springfield (Va.) Little League (12 players)
• District 8 Virginia Beach Little League (12 players)
Game 2: June 3 – No theme
• Ward 7 – 6th District Little League, Washington, D.C. (15 players)
• Senators Little League, Washington, D.C. (19 players)
Game 1: May 6 – First Tee Ball on the South Lawn game
• Satchel Paige Little League, Washington, D.C. (17 players)
• Capitol City Little League, Washington, D.C. (15 players)
Total Players: 563