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Little League International to Host Third Annual Urban Initiative Jamboree

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (May 4, 2006) – Ten regular season teams from urban communities and neighborhoods will be making the memorable trip to the home of Little League Baseball and Softball when they travel to Williamsport, Pa., to take part in the third annual Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree supported by Major League Baseball, June 2-4.

For years, the Little League Urban Initiative – Little League’s endeavor to bring the benefits of the program to families in urban areas – has provided young people a chance to play baseball where there was once little opportunity. As part of its continued efforts to increase interest in baseball among urban youth, Major League Baseball, recognizing the merits of the Urban Initiative and the unique opportunity afforded by the Jamboree, has contributed $500,000 in support of the program.

These children from 10 Urban Initiative leagues will be embarking on a unique and educational journey when they travel to Little League International, site of the annual Little League Baseball World Series. On Saturday and Sunday, June 3-4, games will be played at Howard J. Lamade and Little League Volunteer Stadiums; along with Carl Stotz Memorial Field, near the site of the first Little League games in 1939, and home to Original League.

Participating in the Jamboree will be Little League programs from the following cities: Albuquerque, N.M. (Isleta Little League); York, Pa. (York City Little League); Louisville, Ky. (Portland Little League); Philadelphia (Lighthouse Little League); Chicago (Rosemoor Little League); Tampa, Fla. (Yellow Jackets Little League); Houston (East End Little League); Trenton, N.J. (West End Little League); San Diego (Encanto Little League); and Los Angeles (Playa Vista Little League). One local league umpire will accompany each team, and will be on the field for several Jamboree games.

In 2004, eight Urban Initiative leagues from the Eastern U.S. took part in the inaugural Jamboree. Last year, 10 regular-season teams from leagues aided, or chartered through, the Urban Initiative traveled to Little League International from various points throughout the country. Also visiting the 2005 Jamboree was Baseball Hall of Famer, Dave Winfield, who met with the teams and was a spectator at several games.

“The Little League Urban Initiative has quickly evolved into vital component of Little League,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “The smiles on the faces of the players, parents and local league officials attending the annual Jamboree express that success, but moreover illustrate the appreciation for the program, and reinforce how important a role Little League can play in a child’s life.”

The Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree will consist of games, instruction, and other events to be announced. Although scores will be kept for the games, no champion will be declared. The public is invited to watch the games at no charge.

“The Urban Initiative Jamboree provides a unique opportunity for children who would not normally have the means to participate,” David James, director of the Urban Initiative, said. “The coaches and families will experience the friendship and celebration that all-star players enjoy during the Little League World Series, while the players will get the chance to play on the same fields where Little League’s world champion is crowned, and where the program started.”

Housing for three nights, plus meals, will be provided for the teams in the Dr. Creighton J. Hale International Grove, where Little League Baseball World Series teams live for two weeks each August.

On Aug. 24, 2003, during the Little League Baseball World Series, Major League Baseball announced it would provide a grant of $250,000 for the Urban Initiative. Part of that grant is used to fund the Jamboree, and will enable Little League to present the “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” educational program to the visiting teams. Led by Sharon Robinson, daughter of the late Baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, Breaking Barriers is a multi-curricular character education program developed by Major League Baseball. The curriculum is based on the values demonstrated by Jackie Robinson and uses motivating, baseball-themed activities to reinforce literacy skills, mathematics, science and social history in addition to addressing critical issues of character development.

During the 2005 Little League Baseball World Series, Major League Baseball made its second $250,000 grant to the Little League Urban Initiative. The funding continues to help support the annual Urban Initiative Jamboree, while also affording training and education for Little League volunteers, and contributes to monies used in field renovation projects.

“For the second year, 10 teams from metropolitan areas across the United States have a chance to live a dream, and make lasting memories at the Urban Initiative Jamboree,” Mr. Keener said. “Little League International, with the support of Major League Baseball, welcomes these leagues, the volunteers, the players, and their families to experience and enjoy all that Little League has to offer.”

For the past three years the Little League Urban Initiative has promoted recruitment and retention for local leagues through Little League Training and Education programs. Little League provides a variety of clinics at its five regional centers in Bristol, Conn., St. Petersburg, Fla., Indianapolis, San Bernardino, Calif., and Waco, Texas, as well as Little League International in Williamsport.

Because many of the Little League Urban Initiative leagues and independent organizations, operating in these environments face the same problems, networking opportunities are crucial to the growth of a volunteer-based organization. Little League encourages mentoring relationships with other Urban Initiative leagues, working toward positive relationships with the appropriate municipal agencies, developing an assessment of their program’s budgetary needs and concerns, and compiling a list of funding opportunities in their communities.

The Little League Urban Initiative has seen success in more than a 60 cities since it began in 2000. In the past year, Lemon Grove Little League near San Diego; Neartown Little League in Houston; Playa Vista Little League in Los Angeles; and South Side Little League in Chicago where among several leagues that received funding and assistance through the Little League Urban Initiative. Currently, more than 175 local Little Leagues in the U.S. are part of the Urban Initiative. Through 2005, the program stimulated the addition of 2,212 teams and 286,000 players.

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.