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Texas, Pennsylvania Challenger Teams Play Ball at White House

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 24, 2005) – For the 13th time since he began the Tee Ball on the South Lawn program as an initiative to boost interest in baseball among young families, President George W. Bush hosted Little League teams at the White House today for a friendly game.

Both teams were winners however, as the District 12 Little League Challengers of Williamsport, Pa., faced the West University Little League Challengers of Houston. The Challenger Division is for mentally and physically disabled players, and no score was kept. Each player was assisted by a "buddy" who helped when needed.

The game coincided with the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law 15 years ago this Tuesday by President George H.W. Bush. In his opening remarks today on the South Lawn, just before administering the Little League Pledge, President Bush cited the ADA as a “fine piece of legislation.”

President Bush personally met each player and buddy, presenting them with a signed baseball bearing the Presidential Seal. Each player was able to bring four guests, and buddies brought one each. The teams and guests for both teams totaled about 200 people, with about 200 others also attending.

Families and fans watched from VIP seating in the first base bleachers with President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush seated in the center. The game was followed by a picnic on the South Lawn, prepared and served by White House kitchen staff, with musical entertainment by a U.S. Marine combo.

Playing tips came from some of the best in the game. Baseball Hall of Famers Ozzie Smith and Paul Molitor coached the bases, while Houston Astros pitcher Andy Pettitte provided hitting tips.

The honorary commissioner was Steve Palermo, a former American League umpire who was shot in the back in 1991 after coming to the aid of two women who were being attacked. Told he would never walk again, Mr. Palermo now walks with the aid of a cane and works as a liaison between Major League Baseball and the umpires.

For the West University Little League team, it was a three-day trip that included attendance at Saturday night’s game between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington. Choice Hotels, KPMG LLP (the audit, tax and risk advisory firm with offices in Houston), Continental Airlines, Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. (an international law firm), and the Astros together covered the costs of transit, lodging, food and entertainment for the Houston team.

Little League International has administered the Tee Ball on the South Lawn games for the White House for each of President Bush’s first five years in office. Several in Little League International’s family of sponsors have helped to defray the costs associated with all Tee Ball on the South Lawn games this year, including food for the post-game picnic, rental of bleachers, banners, fencing, and personnel costs. Little League reimburses the U.S. Government for its costs.

The sponsors are: Ace Hardware, AIG Companies, Masterfoods, Inc. (Snickers Brand), Musco Sports Lighting, and New Era Cap Company.

The game was the fifth Tee Ball on the South Lawn game to feature Little League’s Challenger Division, the first for a Texas team, and the third for a Pennsylvania team. Since it was founded in 1989, about 200,000 children have played in the Little League Challenger Division, with more than 27,000 playing today.

The White House has not announced plans for another game this year. Leagues can find more information on how to apply to be considered for sending a team to a Tee Ball on the South Lawn game by clicking here.


President Bush delivers the pre-game remarks, which included leading the teams in the Little League Pledge. At right is Houston Astros pitcher Andy Pettitte.

A player for Houston’s West University Little League Challengers gets ready to smack the ball off the tee as his buddy looks on.

President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush (upper left) watch as a District 12 Little League player from Williamsport drives a single up the middle.

Ozzie Smith, Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop, coaches third base while a Williamsport player prepares to score on the next hit.

Hall of Famer Paul Molitor (right) might be giving the steal signal as a Houston player takes a short lead off first base.

These are just a few of the White House and Little League personnel involved in the Tee Ball on the South Lawn game. Pictured, from left to right, are: Stephen D. Keener (President and Chief Executive Officer, Little League International); Scott Sforza (White House Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Communications for Production); Mac McGlothlin (Little League Maintenance Supervisor); Kevin Carski (White House Deputy Associate Director, Communications); Liz Rhodes (White House Communications Assistant); Sara Steele (White House Web Site Coordinator); Erin Nagle (White House Communications Associate Director); Ozzie Smith (Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop); Patrick Wilson (Little League International Director of Regional Operations); Jud Rogers (Little League International Senior Marketing Executive); Gary Walters (White House Chief Usher); Skip Miller (National Park Service Ranger); and Lance Van Auken (Little League International Senior Communications Executive).