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Confederation of European Baseball Commits to Little League

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (May 2, 2006) – The Confederation of European Baseball (CEB), the governing body for national baseball federations in Europe, has agreed to begin affiliating with Little League for the 2007 season, it was announced today by Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball.

“We are delighted that the Confederation of European Baseball has chosen Little League as its exclusive youth baseball development program,” Mr. Keener said. “Patrick Wilson, vice president of operations at Little League International, and Beata Kaszuba, director of the Europe, Middle East and Africa Region, have been working closely with the CEB for nearly two years on this, and we are pleased to have reached an agreement that will benefit so many children.”

The number of players the agreement will bring to the Little League program is unclear as yet, but is thought to be thousands in the 39 countries of the CEB. Currently, Little League programs are operating in 20 European nations. Many of those, however, are primarily composed of the children of U.S. citizens living abroad.

“To reach this level of cooperation with the world’s largest youth sports organization is very significant to the future growth of baseball in Europe,” Martin Miller, president of the CEB, said. “Our two organizations should not try to develop parallel programs in Europe. It is better to combine forces for maximum output and success.”

The agreement opens Little League’s extensive array of training aids, clinics and seminars to players and volunteers throughout the continent. It is limited to players 12 years old and below.

“We are looking forward to using the knowledge base and background of Little League,” Mr. Miller said. “The Little League clinics for players, coaches, umpires and organizers will be of great help to CEB member countries and the European children living in them.”

Mr. Miller, a resident of Munich, Germany, has been to the U.S. to see Little Leaguers in action. He and his family were guests of Little League International at the 2005 Little League Baseball World Series, and he threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the first international game of the tournament between teams from Guam and Russia.

A month later, Mr. Wilson visited Munich for meetings with Mr. Miller and other CEB officials from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. In February 2006, Mr. Wilson traveled to Stockholm, Sweden, to make a formal presentation to CEB members. One day later, the CEB executive committee voted to approve the move, and the CEB signed a letter of intent with Little League International to organize, and eventually charter, Little League programs in each CEB country.

“We’ve had international teams in the Little League Baseball World Series since the 1950s,” Mr. Wilson said. “But with baseball receiving an even greater international presence, organizers in Europe want to receive better training, and Little League will be there to provide it.”

One of the first benefits of the program will be a training video for coaches in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The video, underwritten by the Copernicus Foundation, will be shot next month at the Little League European Leadership Training Center in Kutno, Poland. The video will give novice coaches the training they need to teach the game to young children, and will be distributed at no cost to chartered Little League programs in dozens of countries, in several languages. The first training clinic is slated for this fall.

Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program, with nearly 2.7 million players and 1 million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and scores of other countries. For more information, visit Little League online at www.littleleague.org.