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President Bush Invites Maryland, West Virginia Little League Challenger Teams to Play Ball at White House

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (July 21, 2006) – A Little League Challenger Division team from Shady Spring (W.Va.) Little League will square off against a team from Thurmont, Md., in a “Tee Ball on the South Lawn” game on July 30, it was announced today aboard Air Force One, by White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino.
A player for the Civitan Club of Frederick Challengers gets an assist from mom while signing the banner that will hang on the team’s dugout during the Tee Ball on the South Lawn game.

In keeping with the tradition of Tee Ball on the South Lawn games, no score will be kept between the Braves of Shady Spring Little League and the Thurmont Little League team. Every player on both teams will play on defense and bat once in the one-inning game, to be followed by a picnic on the South Lawn for players and families. A baseball autographed by President George W. Bush will be presented – by the president himself – to each player, manager, and coach. Game time is 2:45 p.m.

Little League’s Challenger Division is for mentally and physically disabled children, ages 5-18. It is Little League’s fastest-growing division, with more than 28,000 players in the U.S. and several other countries.

The game is the 15th on the South Lawn of the White House since May 6, 2001, when President Bush began the initiative as a way to boost interest in baseball among children and parents. Little League Baseball and Softball, the largest youth sports program in the world, has seen registration numbers increase so far this year by more than 26,000 players. Final numbers for the year will not be available until August.

President Bush, the first former Little Leaguer to be elected to the nation’s highest office, played Little League Baseball at Central Little League in Midland, Texas, in the mid-1950s. He was on the Cubs, and was a catcher. In 2001, President Bush was enshrined in the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence when he visited the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

The honorary commissioner for the game will be baseball great Willie Mays, whose storied 22-year career in Major League Baseball ended with 660 home runs – fourth in all of Major League history. He was enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in 1979, and was a young George W. Bush’s favorite player.

The honorary base coaches for the game will be former Major League pitcher Al Leiter, and former Major League catcher Dan Wilson. Mr. Leiter has worked with several charities throughout his career, and Mr. Wilson (who played in the Little League Baseball World Series for his Barrington, Ill., team in 1981) and his wife have four adopted children, and work to raise funds to help orphaned children find adoptive parents.

This will be the second game of 2006, and the sixth to feature teams from the Challenger Division.

Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest youth sports organization, with nearly 2.7 million children participating in every U.S. state and dozens of other countries on six continents. Little League is the only youth sports organization to be chartered by the U.S. Congress.

The Civitan Club of Frederick Challengers of Thurmont (Md.) Little League gather for a team photo, along with several of the buddies and league/district leadership.
The Challenger Braves of the Shady Spring (W.Va.) Little League pose for a team photo, along with team buddies and the league/district leadership.

Players for the Challenger Braves sign the banner that will be hung on the team’s backstop during the Tee Ball on the South Lawn game.