Pennsylvania 14 Administrator Uses Little League Ideals To Grow District
In the past seven years, District 14 has grown from 11 to 22 leagues, with five new leagues joining Little League Baseball and Softball since the start of the 2003 season. Most recently, Mr. Wendler has helped to create charters in Carlisle, York, and Mechanicsburg.
“There are opportunities here,” Mr. Wendler said. “As we developed in particular areas we asked people in non-Little League organizations to use contacts at Little League to develop community interest.”
Mr. Wendler, a resident of Glenville, has been a Little League volunteer for 15 years. In his home league of South Hanover Little League, he has served in practically every position except president, including vice president, umpire-in-chief, and player agent.
Upon assuming the responsibilities of district administrator (DA) from long-time DA, Clarence Boyd who was DA from 1978 until 1997 Mr. Wendler made it his mission to dispel the myths about the Little League program and educate communities on its benefits.
“Interest has been consistent in my time as a DA,” Mr. Wendler said. “It was a specific goal of mine to grow the district, and about three years after I became DA, I started to see consistent growth.”
Intent on chartering one new league each year, Mr. Wendler set out a course of action that would inform and educate the communities in the seven counties in District 14.
“Word of mouth generates baseline interest,” Mr. Wendler said. “When people contact me, there are a lot of inaccurate preconceptions about Little League, but once you talk to people you can promote the program.”
One of the ways communication and education have gone hand-in-hand is through of a public relations.
Doug Berguson, a volunteer with Red Land Little League, is the district’s public relations coordinator. Mr. Berguson is responsible for building relationships with media outlets, and provides information on behalf of the leagues in the district.
“I felt one of the first things I had to do was identify a strong PR director for the district,” Mr. Wendler said. “The fact that Doug serves to coordinate information during the regular season and tournament time brings newspaper and TV exposure to the district.”
Along with Mr. Berguson, the district’s volunteer staff includes Shawn Chiappelli (assistant district administrator), Charlie Hoover (assistant district administrator), and Bill Meyers (umpire consultant). Each has played a vital role in the expansion of the Little League program in District 14.
Mr. Wendler said that when inquiries are made regarding the prospects of joining Little League, he highlights the “ideals of Little League,” namely character, courage, and loyalty.
“People from one community share ideas, support one another, and are very willing to help other communities get their program off the ground,” Mrs. Chiappelli, a volunteer in the Shippensburg Area Little League, said. “Our district is active in training, and being a large district we have to try to be accommodating because there are pockets all over.”
Mr. Wendler stresses the organizational and operational support that Little League provides through rules and regulations, clinics, insurance, and child protection programs, such as ASAP (A Safety Awareness Plan).
“As we developed in particular areas, other leagues which weren’t playing Little League, wanted to play Little League,” he said.
“What we have been able to do is fill in gaps in the district.” Mrs. Chiappelli, who has worked with Mr. Wendler for seven years, said.
York City Little League is a product of the Little League Urban Initiative, while the other newly-chartered leagues had expressed interest over many years prior to joining Little League.
“We have an extremely strong district, because we focus on what goes on at the local league level,” Mr. Wendler said. “Typically, there is TV at tournament games almost every night, and our decorum is as good as it gets.”
Since 2000, District 14 has chartered 11 new leagues. In Pennsylvania
there are nearly 160,000 participants in Little League Baseball and
Softball on more than 10,000 teams.