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Homeland Security Secretary, Baseball Commissioner, Best-Selling Author to attend Little League International Congress

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (April 13, 2004) – Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, and best-selling author John Grisham will be among the guests this weekend in Virginia Beach, Va., as key volunteers in the world’s largest youth sports program gather to attend the 23rd Little League International Congress.

Sec. Ridge will accept the Peter O’Malley Little League Distinguished Ambassador Award at Friday’s opening convocation at the Pavilion Convention Center, at Parks Avenue and 19th Street. Mr. Selig will be the keynote speaker at the same event, and Mr. Grisham will address the delegates on Saturday afternoon.

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 weekend, about 2,000 volunteers from around the globe will gather to chart the future of the world’s largest organized youth sports program.

Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig

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.

Mr. Selig will become 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.

John Grisham

Mr. Grisham, who played Little League Baseball in Southaven, Miss., will address the delegates before a screening of “Mickey,” a baseball movie for which he was screenwriter and producer. Part of the movie was filmed in Williamsport at the site of the Little League Baseball World Series.

“The influence of Little League remains strong worldwide as is evidenced by the number of children and adult volunteers who support the program each year,” said Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball. “Sec. Ridge, Mr. Selig and Mr. Grisham recognize the significance of the democratic process used in Little League, and acknowledge the relevance the program has in the development of future generations. It’s an honor to have these gentlemen address the delegation.”

This is 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 attending are 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.

A total of 17 amendments have been proposed for changing the rules and regulations of Little League, and to the tournament rules. A list of those proposed changes, as well as other information on Congress events, is available at http://www.littleleague.org/congress/CongressAgenda04.pdf

Delegates and their assistants also will attend training seminars and informational assemblies at the Congress, which ends on Monday. Little League pays most of the delegates’ travel, meal and lodging costs for the Congress. In Virginia Beach, larger events will be held at the Pavilion Convention Center, with some smaller meetings at the Cavalier, Sheraton, and Holiday Inn hotels.

“Dedicated volunteers numbering in the thousands come from all around the world to offer their opinions and provide valuable perspectives that are incorporated in the operation of the Little League program,” said Mr. Keener. “This democratic process has been in place since 1956, and provides an excellent opportunity for us to meet with and listen to those volunteers who are so critical to Little League. Everyone is looking forward to it, and we know the volunteers from Virginia Beach and throughout Virginia are anxious to show their hospitality.”

Upon receiving the Peter O’Malley Little League Distinguished Ambassador Award on the first day of the Congress, Secretary Ridge will join a list of past recipients which includes Mr. O’Malley, 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 acknowledge several volunteer District Administrators from around the world for their honored years of service. Also, a three-year video retrospective will be shown, spanning Little League’s highs and lows since the last Congress concluded in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in 2001.

The final event is the Congress Banquet on Monday night. Master of Ceremonies for the dinner will be Jeff Brantley, former Major League pitcher and current analyst for ESPN baseball telecasts and Baseball Tonight.

The Congress Chairman is Jake Hardison, District Administrator for Virginia’s District 8, which is the host district for the International Congress.

Speaker of the Congress is 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 75 countries. There are about 80,000 Little Leaguers in Virginia, ages 5 to 18.