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Newark, Chicago Little League Teams to Play Tee Ball Game on White House South Lawn

(Click here for a story about the sponsors of Tee Ball on the South Lawn)

(White Sox, Cubs, Major League Baseball Contribute To Little League Team’s Journey to the White House)

President Bush places the first ball on the tee as two Girl Scouts look on during pre-game ceremonies at a Tee Ball on the South Lawn game in 2004.

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (June 15, 2005) – Teams from Newark, N.J., and Chicago will square off in a Tee Ball on June 26 on the South Lawn of the White House, it was announced today by White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. The game will highlight the Helping America’s Youth initiative, launched by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush earlier this year, and the Little League Urban Initiative.

In keeping with the tradition of Tee Ball on the South Lawn games, no score will be kept between the Jackie Robinson South Ward Little League Black Yankees of Newark, N.J., and the South Side Little League Memphis Red Sox. The team names used by both leagues are in honor of those used in the Negro Leagues, which flourished in the early 20th century when black players were “unofficially” banned from playing in the Major Leagues.

The President and Mrs. Bush believe every American has an opportunity to help children and youth in their families and communities to avoid trouble and lead more hopeful lives. Faith-based, community, and volunteer organizations – such as Little League and its Urban Initiative – are involved in efforts to reach at-risk youth and get them involved in their communities.

“The goal of Helping America’s Youth is to make sure that every child grows up with a caring adult in his or her life -- whether that adult is a parent, a teacher, a coach or a mentor,” Susan Whitson, Press Secretary to Mrs. Bush, said. “The initiative calls for action in the three most important parts of a child’s life: a child’s family, a child’s school, and a child’s community. Every child has to make choices between healthy behaviors that lead to success and risky behaviors that can lead down a road of bad outcomes. Our responsibility as adults is to provide the education, the skills, and the confidence children need to resist negative pressures and to excel in every part of their lives.”

Bringing the benefits of the Little League program to children and their parents in metropolitan areas has been the mission of the Little League Urban Initiative since its inception in 1999. Currently, about 140 local Little Leagues in 55 U.S. cities are part of the Urban Initiative, including the two leagues taking part in the June 26 game at the White House. More than 37,000 children living in urban areas play Little League, a community project that is 66 years old this year, as part of the Urban Initiative.

President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush enjoy a Tee Ball on the South Lawn game in 2004.

“What is most important to Little League is that local leagues take a patch of grass and dirt, and turn it into a program that can strengthen communities, and strengthen families,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “What happens on the playing field – the wins and losses – really do not matter. What matters is the young people, how they develop, and what they grow to become.”

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 Bush will be presented – by the President himself – to each player, manager, and coach. The time of the game will be announced a few days before the event.

The game is the 12th 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. 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.

A player drives a ball off the tee in a Tee Ball on the South Lawn game in 2002.

This will be the first game of 2005, the first of President Bush’s second term, and the first to include a Little League team from Illinois. One other New Jersey Little League team has participated in a Tee Ball on the South Lawn game. In May 2002, a team from 6-11 Little League of Trenton played against a team from Uniondale Little League of Long Island, N.Y.

The Chicago team, parents and guests will travel by bus to Williamsport, Pa., where they will stay in dorms on the Little League International Complex the nights of June 25 and 26, then travel back to Chicago by bus on June 27. Little League International is providing lodging and meals at no charge to the team or league. The Newark team will make the round trip from Newark to Washington on June 26. Each team will have about 100 people at the game.

Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest youth sports organization, with more than 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.

More information on Helping America’s Youth can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/firstlady/helping-youth.html

More information on the Little League Urban Initiative can be found here.

News conferences were held in Newark and Chicago on June 16, announcing that the first game of the fifth season of Tee Ball on the South Lawn would feature the Jackie Robinson South Ward Little League Black Yankees of Newark, N.J. (above), and the South Side Little League Memphis Red Sox of Chicago (right). In these photos, players from the two teams that will be playing in the game at the White House on June 26 sign a banner that will hang on their dugout for the game.