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Little League to Host Urban Initiative Jamboree

About 100 kids to play and stay at site of World Series

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Feb. 24, 2004) – For children around the world, getting a chance to play at the home of the Little League Baseball World Series is a dream come true. For about 100 urban kids, that dream will be realized over the Memorial Day Weekend (May 28-31) as Little League International hosts the inaugural Little League Baseball Urban Initiative Jamboree.

The event will feature games between teams from eight Little League programs that are part of the Little League Urban Initiative – Little League’s endeavor to bring the benefits of the program to families in urban areas.

Little League International is paying the costs for transporting the eight teams, plus dozens of adult volunteers and parents. Housing for three nights, plus meals, will be provided for the teams in Dr. Creighton J. Hale International Grove, where Little League Baseball World Series teams live for two weeks each August.

On Aug. 24, 2003, during the Little League Baseball World Series, Major League Baseball announced it would provide a grant of $250,000 for the Urban Initiative, part of which will be used to fund the Jamboree. The grant is part of the proceeds from the Major League Baseball All-Star Game Work-Out Day, and will enable Little League to present MLB’s “Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life” educational program to the visiting teams. Breaking Barriers is an initiative created and operated for Major League Baseball by Sharon Robinson, daughter of the late Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in half a century.

“This event has been in the works for some time, and all of us are very much looking forward to it,” said Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball. “Not only will these children have a fun weekend of baseball and friendship, it also will be an educational visit that will highlight the Breaking Barriers program. We’re extremely grateful to Major League Baseball for its outstanding support, and we are pleased to be able to offer this event to children in Little League’s Urban Initiative.”

One team will come from a Little League program in each the following cities: Washington, D.C. (Satchel Paige Little League); Newark, N.J. (Central Ward Little League); Pittsburgh (Duquesne Little League); New York (Felix Millan Little League); Baltimore (South Baltimore Little League); Richmond, Va. (North Richmond Little League); Trenton, N.J. (North Trenton Little League); and Worcester, Mass. (Ted Williams Little League). The specific regular season team from each league will be chosen by that league’s board of directors.

The Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree will consist of games, instruction, and other events to be announced. Although scores will be kept in the games, no champion will be declared. The public is invited to watch the games at no charge.

Besides Major League Baseball, the Little League Urban Initiative has received funding support from the companies and organizations listed:

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Washington D.C. Parks and Recreation Department
The Wilson Sporting Goods Company
Chicago Park District
American Honda Motor Company
Houston Recreation and Parks Department
Comcast/The Comcast Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Popular Mechanics Magazine
The Teammate for Kids Foundation
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
The City of Tampa, Fla.
The City of Atlanta

For the past two years the Little League Urban Initiative Program has promoted recruitment and retention for local leagues through Little League training and education programs. Little League provides a variety of clinics at its five regional centers in Bristol, Conn., St. Petersburg, Fla., Indianapolis, San Bernardino, Calif., and Waco, Texas, as well as Little League International in Williamsport. The clinic topics include instruction for managers, coaches, umpires and league administrators, with emphasis on safety, child protection, and parent orientation. Any volunteer involved with a Little League Urban Initiative Program league can attend any of the clinics at no charge and receive resource materials free or at a reduced cost. Additionally, for the past two years, the program has provided remote clinics at locations in several other cities.

Because many of the Little League Urban Initiative leagues and independent organizations operating in these environments face the same problems, networking opportunities are crucial to the growth of a volunteer based organization. Little League encourages mentoring relationships with other Urban Initiative leagues, working toward positive relationships with the appropriate municipal agencies, developing an assessment of their program’s budgetary needs and concerns, and compiling a list of funding opportunities in their communities.

The Little League Urban Initiative has seen success in more than a dozen cities since it began in 1989. Notably, leagues in South Central Los Angeles and Harlem are now thriving, with thousands of children graduating in the past 15 years. Recently, Belmont Heights Little League in Tampa, Fla., has received funding and assistance through the Little League Urban Initiative at a time when media reports said the league might be forced to fold. Currently, more than 100 local Little Leagues in the U.S. are part of the Urban Initiative.

Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program, with nearly 2.7 million players and 1 million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and scores of other countries.