Little League Challenger Teams from Maryland, West Virginia Play Tee Ball at White House
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (July 31, 2006) – The 15th “Tee Ball on the South
Lawn” game was played Sunday at the White House, and sitting in the
stands along side President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush
was the President’s baseball idol, Hall of Famer Willie Mays.
A West Virginia batter watches his hit
fly off the tee into the infield, along with coaches and
In keeping with the tradition of Tee Ball on the South Lawn
games, no score was kept in the Little League Challenger Division
match-up between the Braves of Shady Spring (W.Va.) Little League
and the Thurmont (Md.) Little League. Every player on both teams
played on defense and bat once in the one-inning game that preceded
a picnic on the South Lawn for players and families. A baseball
autographed by President Bush was presented – by the president
himself – to each player, manager, and coach.
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
The game was the latest played 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.
Mr. Mays was the honorary commissioner for the game. His 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. After the game, Mr. Mays
autographed baseballs for all the children in attendance.
The honorary base coaches for the game were 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 was the second game of 2006, and the sixth to feature teams
from the Challenger Division. For more information on Tee Ball on
the South Lawn, visit http://www.littleleague.org/media/teeballselection.asp.
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.
|U.S. President George W.
Bush speaks to the teams and families, with Baseball
Hall of Famer Willie Mays and Little League mascot
Dugout looking on. Mr. Mays, who was a young George W.
Bush’s favorite player, was the honorary commissioner
for the game.
||Honorary third base coach
and former Major League catcher Dan Wilson gives some
tips to a player from Maryland. Mr. Wilson played in the
Little League Baseball World Series in 1981.
|A player from Maryland
drives the ball off the tee.
||A Maryland player shows
off his gift from President Bush.
|West Virginia runners are
encouraged on the bases by the buddies.
||Honorary first base coach
Al Leiter, a former Major League pitcher, watches the
|President Bush gives an
autographed baseball to a West Virginia player
||A coach for the Maryland
team, along with hundreds of onlookers, watches a Marine
helicopter land on the South Lawn. A few minutes later,
when the helicopter was boarded by President Bush, it
was designated as Marine One.