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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2002 > President Bush Re-Starts Little League "Tee Ball on the South Lawn" Games

President Bush Re-Starts Little League "Tee Ball on the South Lawn" Games

Teams from New Jersey, New York to play at White House 

Watch the game live on the Internet, Sunday May 5, 2002, at 3:30 p.m. at: www.whitehouse.gov

Click here to learn how Tee Ball teams are selected.

Click here to see President George W. Bush's Little League roster from 1955.

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (May 1, 2002) – The attacks of Sept. 11 only postponed President George W. Bush’s program to reinvigorate interest in baseball among young people. The Little League Tee Ball on the South Lawn program is back on, with teams from Long Island, N.Y., and Trenton, N.J., to square off for a friendly game in the president’s back yard on Sunday, May 5, 2002.

Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer announced on May 1 that the White House will again work with Little League Baseball International to invite teams to play on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. Game time is 3:30 p.m., and the game will be webcast live at www.whitehouse.gov

“We’re proud that Little League can be of service to President Bush in this way,” Mr. Keener said. “As a Little League graduate, President Bush understands the benefits a family receives by being part of an organization promoting teamwork, sportsmanship, and fair play as its core values.”

The Long Island team is from the Uniondale Little League. The New Jersey team is from the Six-Eleven Little League of Trenton. Also attending will be the Little League Baseball International Board of Directors.

“…on a somewhat lighter note, this Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at the White House, we'll host opening day of the 2002 Tee Ball season. This Sunday's game will feature two teams that were scheduled to play each other at the White House on September 16th, but had their game cancelled because of the September 11th terrorist attacks. The President is very pleased to invite these teams back to the White House. One team is the Uniondale Little League Sluggers from Uniondale, New York. And the other is the 6&11 Little League Sluggers from Trenton, New Jersey. I'm also pleased to announce on behalf of the President that the President has appointed Cal Ripken, Jr., formally of the Baltimore Orioles, to serve as honorary commissioner of the White House Tee Ball League.” 

– White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer at the White House Press Briefing, May 1, 2002.
(Mr. Ripken is a Little League graduate, having played in the West Asheville, N.C., Little League. He is also an enshrinee of the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum, as is President Bush.)

Players from the two leagues were originally selected to play on Sept. 16 last year, but the attacks of Sept. 11 caused the game to be postponed. President Bush sent a letter to both leagues explaining the reasons for the postponement, with a plea to pray for the country’s well-being. Most of the players on last year’s rosters will be playing in this Sunday’s game.

“I think everyone understood why the game was postponed,” Robert Rodriguez, president of the Uniondale Little League, said. “Many people in our league knew some of those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center, so we know the focus had to shift away from Tee Ball for a while. But the kids are really excited to have another chance to play at the White House.”

Both leagues are in predominantly Hispanic areas. The original game date was chosen to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month last year.

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The Little League Tee Ball teams receive a guided tour of the White House. Here, a team visits the State Dining Room under a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. (May 6, 2001)

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A Little League Tee Ball player gets ready to swing while Little League’s mascot, Dugout, watches in the background. (May 6, 2001)

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President Bush addresses the teams and the crowd at the first Little League Tee Ball on the South Lawn game. (May 6, 2001)

“It really works out well that the game will be played on Cinco de Mayo,” Luis Diaz, president of Six-Eleven Little League, said. “Every Little Leaguer, no matter who they are, should be proud of their heritage. We’re grateful that President Bush is inviting us to take part.”

Cinco de Mayo is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and parts of Latin America and the U.S. The date refers to May 5, 1862, when the Mestizo and Zapotec Indians of Mexico defeated the French army in what came to be known as the “Batalla de Puebla” or “Battle of Puebla.”

President Bush played Little League Baseball in Midland, Texas, in the 1950s. His team was the Cubs, and he was known as a good defensive player. He is also the first Little League graduate to be elected president, and became the first sitting president to visit the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the world championship game on Aug. 26 last year. 

“I equate Little League Baseball with good families,” the president said during his remarks at the Little League Baseball World Series before a crowd of more than 40,000. “I want to thank all the coaches for working with the kids. You’re not only teaching the kids how to throw and hit, you’re teaching them incredibly important values: the values of good clean competition; the values of teamwork; the values of working with somebody to win for something greater than yourself.”

Several companies donated supplies or services to Little League Baseball so that all the equipment necessary (except gloves, which are those belonging to the players) is available, including fencing, bases, bats, baseballs, catcher’s equipment, player benches and the batting tee. Little League also provides numbered shirts for each player and a baseball cap, both of which the players keep as souvenirs. The companies donating the equipment to Little League are: Wilson Sporting Goods, Russell Athletic, New Era Cap, SportFence, Easton, Larson Design Group and TurnKey Construction.

The Tee Ball players, managers and coaches also receive a baseball bearing the Presidential Seal and signature of President Bush -- his personal gift for their participation.

Special guests at the game will be the Apopka National Little League team that won the U.S. championship in the 2001 Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport last August. Rich Eisen and Alvaro Martin, ESPN personalities, will handle the public address chores.

Little League Baseball is the world largest youth sports organization, with approximately 2.8 million players in all 50 states and 102 other countries. About 35 million people have played or volunteered for Little League in its 63-year history. Little League offers baseball and softball programs for children ages 5-18. Tee Ball, for players 5-8 years old, utilizes a batting tee instead of pitching. Scores are not kept, with the emphasis placed on instruction and having fun.

More Little League Tee Ball on the South Lawn games are being planned for this year, but specific dates and teams have not been determined. Leagues can express their desire to be considered for selection to send a team to the White House by visiting Little League’s official web site at: http://www.littleleague.org.