Little League International Congress Concludes in Virginia BeachClick here to see the Congress Agenda and the results of the vote on each item.)
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (April 19, 2004) – The 23rd Little League International Congress came to an end tonight as nine nominees for election to the Little League International Board of Directors were introduced to a crowd of 1,500 attending the closing banquet at the Pavilion Convention Center.
The four-day International Congress is held once every three years, with a primary purpose to amend rules and regulations. In the years leading up to each Congress, volunteers from dozens of nations submit their ideas for changes to a steering committee, and an agenda is prepared. This past weekend, nearly 2,000 volunteers from around the globe gathered to chart the future of the world’s largest organized youth sports program.
The nine are: Jimmy Ada (Saipan, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, District 1); Frank Bergfield (Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, District 1); Danny Cavallo (Syracuse, N.Y., District 8); Jim Chavez (Auburn ,Wash., District 10); Val Domingue, Jr. (Lafayette, La., District 1); Bob Gibson (Dunedin, Florida, District 12); Jim Joseph (Burlington, Wisc., District 1); Felix M. Rivera (Arroyo, Puerto Rico, District 13); and Marc St. Pierre (Ontario, Canada, District 4). Each was elected from and by the District Administrators in their respective region for nomination to the board at the annual meeting in November. If elected, they will serve until the annual meeting in 2007.
Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, best-selling author John Grisham, and ESPN sports personality Jeff Brantley were among the guests at the International Congress. A video message from President George W. Bush, the first Little League graduate to become president, was delivered to the Congress on the final day.
Sec. Ridge accepted the Peter O’Malley Little League Distinguished Ambassador Award at Friday’s opening convocation. Mr. Selig was the keynote speaker at the same event. Mr. Grisham addressed the delegates on Saturday afternoon. Mr. Brantley, former Major League pitcher and current analyst for ESPN baseball telecasts and Baseball Tonight. was the master of ceremonies for the banquet on the final day.
Sec. Ridge is a longtime Little League supporter, and was a guest several times at the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa., while governor of Pennsylvania. He was instrumental in Little League receiving a $3 million grant from Pennsylvania for the construction of a second stadium at which the World Series is played each year, allowing the tournament to expand from eight teams to 16. Mr. O’Malley, former president of the Los Angeles Dodgers and a trustee of the Little League Foundation, will present the award to Sec. Ridge, who is the only person to hold this cabinet position since it was created following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
“The game of baseball is one of the defining experiences of childhood,” Sec. Ridge said. “It’s a great confluence of character building and accomplishment. In Williamsport, in those last few weeks of summer, you folks here share the American pastime with the rest of the world. Players, coaches and fans from a great multitude of diversity and backgrounds come together to share a common and unifying experience – that’s Little League Baseball.”
Mr. Selig is the sixth baseball commissioner to attend the International Congress. During his six-year tenure as commissioner, Mr. Selig has been supportive of several initiatives involving Little League Baseball and Major League Baseball, helping to create interest in the sport among children and parents.
Mr. Grisham, who played Little League Baseball in Southaven, Miss., addressed the delegates before a screening of “Mickey,” a baseball movie for which he was screenwriter and producer. He was accompanied by the film’s director, Hugh Wilson. Part of the movie was filmed in Williamsport at the site of the Little League Baseball World Series.
This was the first Little League International Congress to be held in Little League’s Southern Region since the 16th Congress in Tampa, Fla., in 1984. About 500 of those who attended were volunteer district administrators, with another 1,000 being assistant district administrators. These individuals serve as liaisons between the local leagues and Little League International. District administrators are elected by their constituent leagues to provide support, and to represent their interests as delegates to the International Congress. Assistants are appointed by the district administrators. Only the delegates and their assistant district administrators are permitted to attend the Congress.
The delegates meet in round table discussions, making any necessary changes in the proposed amendments, then vote on the changes on the final day of the Congress. A two-thirds vote is required for passage. Those amendments receiving the necessary vote are then presented to the International Board of Directors (for rules and regulations) or the International Tournament Committee (for tournament rules and guidelines) for final approval.Delegates and their assistants also attended training seminars and informational assemblies at the Congress. Little League paid most of the delegates’ travel, meal and lodging costs for the Congress. In Virginia Beach, larger events were held at the Pavilion Convention Center, with some smaller meetings at the Cavalier, Sheraton, and Holiday Inn hotels.
Upon receiving the Peter O’Malley Little League Distinguished Ambassador Award on the first day of the Congress, Secretary Ridge joined a list of past recipients which includes Mr. O’Malley (former president of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and current trustee of the Little League Foundation), former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, Baseball Hall of Famer Stan Musial and the late Ed Piszek, founder of Mrs. Paul’s Kitchens and Little League Foundation trustee, who played a key role in the growth of Little League in Europe.
On Saturday, the District Administrator Recognition Luncheon will acknowledged several volunteer District Administrators from around the world for their honored years of service. Also, a three-year video retrospective was be shown, spanning Little League’s highs and lows since the last Congress concluded in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in 2001.
The Congress Chairman was Jake Hardison, District Administrator for Virginia’s District 8, which was the host district for the International Congress.
Speaker of the Congress was Williamsport’s Timothy J. Hughes, a director and chairman-elect of the Little League Baseball International Board of Directors.
Little League Baseball, founded in 1939 in Williamsport, Pa., has
nearly 2.7 million participants and a million volunteers in more than