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Holiday Message from Little League President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Keener
In 2005, we lost several good friends. Because our program is now heading into its sixty-eighth year, many of those whose labors helped build Little League are no longer with us, and we mourn their loss. One of these was Ted Reich, who served as a member of the Little League International Board of Directors from 1991 until his passing in September. He was chairman of our international board from 1999 to 2001.
This past year we said goodbye to the longtime Chief Financial Officer of Little League, James P. Stopper, who is retiring Dec. 31. Jim was a faithful servant of Little League International for several decades and he will be missed. Fortunately, we have secured an outstanding replacement in David Houseknecht of Muncy, Pennsylvania, who comes to us from Geisinger Diversified Services where he was Senior Director of Finance and Operations. Dave will become our new CFO effective January first.
Just recently, the Little League International Board of Directors was pleased to promote Joe Losch to Senior Vice President. Joe has been at Little League International since 1968, and is well-known to many volunteers.
At the same time, we promoted Pat Wilson to Vice President of Operations. Pat has been with Little League for nearly thirteen years, and has earned the respect of district administrator and volunteers worldwide.
In 2005 there were two Little League Tee Ball games on the South Lawn of the White House – a continuation of President George W. Bush’s initiative to increase awareness of baseball among young families. Little League is proud that President Bush, the first U.S. President to have played Little League, cites his experiences as a Little Leaguer as among the fondest of his childhood.
We were pleased that President Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice could join us for the championship game of the Little League Southwest Regional Tournament at our regional center in Waco, Texas, this past August.
And, we are also proud that another graduate, U.S. Marine General Peter Pace, was promoted this year to the highest rank in the military – the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Chairman Pace is a member of the Little League Hall of Excellence in the Peter J. MCGovern Little League Museum. We wish General Pace all the very best in this difficult and demanding position.
While the various divisions of the Little League program thrived in 2005, we saw great enhancements in its various initiatives this year. The Little League Urban Initiative, the Child Protection Program, the ASAP program, and the Challenger Division, continue to make Little League more than just a game of bats and balls. We are confident that these programs will continue successfully in 2006 and beyond.
One of our newest programs is the Little League Pitch Count Pilot Program. Optional in 2006 for any local Little League program, the actual number of pitches thrown is used to determine pitching eligibility, rather than innings pitched. We encourage local leagues to become a part of this important pilot program.
You can find out more about the Pitch Count Pilot Program at the Little League web site, as well as many other safety initiatives. Little League continues to be at the forefront of safety for youth sports, as we seek ways to make the game safer for everyone.
Last August, we saw eight Little League Baseball and Softball teams crowned as world champions. But each of the 170,000 Little League teams around the world is a champion in its own right, because each gives children the opportunity to learn the values of teamwork, sportsmanship and fair play – values they can use later in life when they take their place in society as productive citizens.
And it is you, the Little League volunteer, who makes that possible. For that, we are grateful.
I hope the holidays in the days ahead are a safe and joyous occasion for you and your family. And for those who cannot be with their families because of military service away from home, we hope and pray for their safe return.
Thank you again for your volunteer leadership and service, and please accept my personal best wishes for a safe and happy New Year.