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Little League Looks To Expand In South Africa

The first African team to play in the European Region Tournament was from Minna, Nigeria, in 2000. Here, a Nigerian batter prepares to take a swing at the European Region Tournament at the Little League European Leadership Training Center in Kutno, Poland.

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Feb. 8, 2002) – The South African Baseball Union has reached an agreement with Little League Baseball to develop and expand Little League throughout the country, it was announced by Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball.

“We’re pleased that the benefits of Little League will soon be made available to thousands of South African boys and girls,” Mr. Keener said. “Little League is a proven program for more than 100 countries around the world. It is particularly gratifying to see Little League make these inroads into Africa as well as the Southern Hemisphere.”

Michael Merten of Wiesbaden, Germany, traveled to South Africa last month to meet with the South African Baseball Union. Mr. Merten is Little League’s district administrator for Germany District 2, and is a field director on the Little League Baseball International Board of Directors.

There has been a single Little League program in Johannesburg, South Africa’s second-largest city, since 1998. However, the agreement with the South African Baseball Union, the governing body for baseball in South Africa, could bring dozens of leagues under the Little League umbrella throughout the country.

In 2002, for the first time, leagues in South Africa will compete for the national title in various divisions, with the champions earning a berth in the regional tournament at Kutno, Poland, site of the Little League European Leadership Training Center. The winners in eight baseball and softball divisions of the European Region then advance to the various World Series in the U.S. in August.

Little League Baseball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program, with approximately 2.8 million children and 1 million volunteers in every U.S. state and 103 other countries.