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New Jersey, New York Teams Square Off For Little League Tee Ball On The South Lawn Game

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tbg4a.jpg (43211 bytes)WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (May 5, 2002) – President George W. Bush and first Lady Laura Bush welcomed Little League Tee Ball teams from Long Island, N.Y., and Trenton, N.J., today as the Little League Tee Ball on the South Lawn program was re-started.

Under a cloudless sky, the 5-to-8-year-olds of Uniondale (N.Y.) Little League and the Six-Eleven Little League of Trenton, N.J., squared off for a friendly game. With more than 500 in attendance, it was possibly the largest crowd to ever witness a Little League Tee Ball game in history.

Last year, President Bush asked Little League Baseball to administer the program during his administration, as an effort to reinvigorate interest in baseball among young people. There were three games on the South Lawn last year, including one Little League Challenger Division game for disabled kids.

“As a Little League graduate, President Bush understands the benefits a family receives by being part of the Little League movement,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball, said. “Our purpose is not to create Baseball Hall of Famers, although thousands of Little League graduates have gone on to long careers in Major League Baseball, and in a few cases, induction into the Hall of Fame. Rather, we are an organization promoting teamwork, sportsmanship, and fair play as its core values, so that those values can be used in molding children into good citizens.”

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.”

Also attending the game was the Little League Baseball International Board of Directors, a volunteer board made up of representatives from 10 U.S. states, Germany, Netherlands Antilles, Canada and Hong Kong.

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.

The players on both teams wore the standard Little League patch on the left shoulder of their uniform shirts, plus the “Honoring Our Hometown Heroes” patch. The initiative seeks to educate children about the Hometown Heroes that can be found in every community, and is a way for millions of Little Leaguers to honor the brave men and women who perished while trying to save lives in the terrorist attacks.

The Uniondale Little League and Six-Eleven Little League are in predominantly Hispanic areas. The original game date was chosen to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month last year.

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.”

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, as well as logistical support from its staff at Little League International in Williamsport. 

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 received a baseball bearing the Presidential Seal and signature of President Bush -- his personal gift for their participation.

Special guests at the game were 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, handled the public address chores. Other guests included Hall of Famers Tony Perez and Orlando Cepeda, 26-year Major League veteran pitcher Tommy John, Cal Ripken Jr., Billy Ripken, and Jim Morris.

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. More information is available on how leagues can express a desire to be considered for selection to send a team to the White House at: