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Little League’s Urban Initiative, Major League Baseball Team Up to Transform Little League Fields in Houston

HOUSTON (July 11, 2004) – Among the big league stars who gathered in Houston for the 75th Major League Baseball All-Star Game, Little League’s Urban Initiative and Major League Baseball also provided a shining moment for the city of Houston and the South Central Little League as a pair of new field projects were dedicated.

David L. James, at left in the front row, director of Little League's Urban Initiative, stands with Iris Raiford and her husband, Dwight, chairman of the Little League International Board of Directors, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Frank Velesquez, a member of the Council for Houston’s Inner City LL (CHILL), during the recent dedication ceremony at South Central Little League in Houston. In the back row are, Tony Flenoy, South Central Little league president, Cravon Rogers, league vice president, and Jerri Flenoy, league treasurer. The field renovations were the most recent completed as part of the Little League Urban Initiative.

Sunnyside Park and Yellowstone Park are both home fields for the South Central Little League and are owned by the Houston Parks and Recreation Department. Each property underwent major renovations that included the installation of new fencing, dugout covers and electric and water services, along with regrading and soding of the fields. Major League Baseball provided a portion of the project’s funding through a $20,000 grant. The grant was part of an initial contribution of $250,000 MLB made to the Little League Baseball Urban Initiative in 2003.

Former Major League Baseball all-star and current ESPN Baseball Tonight analyst Harold Reynolds, and U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) along with W. Dwight Raiford, chairman of the Little League International Board of Directors, and David L. James, director of Little League’s Urban Initiative, all attended the dedication ceremony.

“The dedication ceremony at Sunnyside Park was a success for the Urban Initiative and Major League Baseball, but more importantly for the children and adults involved in the South Central Little League program,” said Mr. James. “With these improvements the South Central Little League will now have what they can describe as a home field advantage that will allow them to significantly increase the number of children they serve and the number of adult volunteers that participate in their program. We anticipate this project to be the spark for many other similar projects we have planned for the city of Houston.”

The Little League Urban Initiative, in conjunction with a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, has also entered into an agreement with the Houston Independent school district to build a state-of-the-art Little League facility in the city of Houston.

As part of a $1 million grant to Little League Baseball, the Hilton Foundation has pledged $200,000 to each of five field renovation projects in urban communities throughout the United States. This construction and revitalization project is the second sponsored by the Hilton Foundation.

The Neartown Little League – an Urban Initiative participant – and the Wharton Elementary School are the beneficiaries of the pristine new field that will include a press box, and facilities for storage and concessions.

David James, left, and Tony Flenoy, President of the South Central Little League, display the new "Adopt A Field" plaque."

“We are quite pleased to announce this partnership between the Little League Urban Initiative and the Houston Independent School District,” said Mr. James. “The development of this new Little League field and facility at Wharton Elementary will benefit the children of the district and the Little Leaguers in the community by providing a modern complex in which both the children and adults in the neighborhood can take pride.”

The Little League Urban Initiative provides assistance packages for eligible leagues that assist the local volunteer group with equipment acquisition, capital improvement cash grants, field improvement and renovation, access to Little League Baseball and Softball education and training programs, advocacy, and networking.

  • A component of Little League Baseball and Softball, the Little League Urban Initiative began in 1999 with programs in Los Angeles and Harlem, N.Y., and expanded to other cities in September 2000.
  • The Little League Urban Initiative is now operating with more than 100 leagues. Including fields in Atlanta, Tampa, and York, Pa., the fields in Houston are the fourth and fifth Urban Initiative projects to be dedicated in 2004.
  • In 2003, the Little League Urban Initiative stimulated the addition of 114 teams and 1,750 players.

On the 2004 Memorial Day weekend, Little League hosted the inaugural Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree at Little League International. Eight Urban Initiative leagues sent regular season teams to Williamsport, Pa., site of the annual Little League Baseball World Series, to experience the thrill of a weekend of friendly games, instruction, and education.

Since 2000, Major League Baseball has contributed more than $1 million to the Little League Baseball International Capital Campaign and resources to Little League Baseball and publishes Little League Magazine, a 48-page color publication distributed by mail to 1.6 million registered Little League players. In addition, Major League Baseball and the clubs distribute 400,000 copies of Little League Magazine throughout the summer as part of youth promotions.

Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program with nearly 2.7 million participants and 1 million volunteers in all 50 U.S. states and scores of other countries.