Kevin Costner Among Three Chosen for Little League Hall of Excellence Enshrinement
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – The star of "Field of Dreams" is among those to be honored on Williamsport’s field of dreams during the 54th annual Little League Baseball World Series at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
Oscar-winning director and actor Kevin Costner is one of three enshrinees this year into the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum Hall of Excellence, which since 1988 has recognized Little League Baseball graduates who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in their chosen profession and exemplify the values learned as youngsters in Little League Baseball. Mr. Costner is expected to attend Hall of Excellence ceremonies Saturday, Aug. 26, at noon, in front of the museum on Route 15 South. The event is open to the public.
Also expected to attend are fellow inductees Billy Hunter, executive director of the NBA Players Association, and Dr. Robert Stratta, a transplant surgeon and professor of surgery at the University Tennessee, Memphis.
Mr. Costner is a graduate of Saticoy Little League near Ventura, Calif., where he was a gifted pitcher in a league where his father coached and umpired and his mother operated the snack bar. He went on to star in several movies, including the baseball movie classics "Bull Durham" and "Field of Dreams." His 1990 film "Dances with Wolves," won him Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director, and he has been part of some of the most popular films of the 1990s including "JFK," "The Body Guard," "Tin Cup," "Message in a Bottle" and his third baseball movie, 1999’s "For Love of the Game."
"I remember waiting for my brother to be done so I could run the bases," Mr. Costner said. "I remember picture day and spilling my drink on my uniform. To quote ‘Field of Dreams,’ the memories are so thick I have to brush them away from my face."
Mr. Costner credits Little League with being a positive force in his life.
"I think of the situations I was in, how you handle a win or a loss, how you handle it when an umpire doesn’t seem to be helping you out," he said. "You learn how to depend on teammates, because even on no-hitters there’s someone behind you making a play.
"Once you learn your place on the team, did you give it your best shot? I’m a film-maker and an actor. I know that hits aren’t going to happen every time and that people are going to argue every choice you make. But I honestly believe I’ve given it my best shot."
Mr. Hunter, who has led the NBA player’s union since 1996, graduated from Delaware Township Little League in Cherry Hill, N.J., where he was a pitcher and infielder on a team that made it all the way to the Little League Baseball World Series final in 1955. A talented all-around athlete, Mr. Hunter starred in four sports in high school and, as a running back, captained the Syracuse University football team to a Sugar Bowl appearance in the early 1960s. He began working toward a law degree while playing professional football for the Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins. He worked in the district attorney’s office for Alameda and San Francisco counties before serving as United States Prosecutor for Northern California from 1976-83.
Like Mr. Hunter, Dr. Stratta also pitched in the Little World Series and was the pitcher of record for North Roseland Little League, North Roseland, Ill., in its championship game encounter with Japan in 1967.
Dr. Stratta went on to earn a college baseball scholarship and a medical degree. He’s been a transplant surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Tennessee-Memphis since 1997. Before that, he had led the Clinical Pancreas Transplant Team at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, for seven years.
Hall of Excellence enshrinees are selected through a defined voting system by the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum Advisory Board.
The Little League Baseball World Series begins on Sunday and ends on Aug. 26. Two teams have already been determined for the eight-team Little League Baseball World Series (11-12-year-olds) field: Sierra Maestra Little League of Maracaibo, Venezuela, the Latin America Region champion, and Musashi Fuchu Little League of Tokyo, Japan, the Far East champion. The European Regional Tournament is expected to end later today, with Kutno, Poland, and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, playing for the title. The U.S. Regional Tournaments are all under way.
The championship games of the U.S. regional tournaments can be seen live on ESPN2. The schedule follows: U.S. South, Tuesday, 8 p.m.; U.S. Central, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.; U.S. East, Thursday, 8 p.m.; U.S. West, Thursday, 11 p.m. (All times Eastern). The Canada Regional Tournament in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, ends Wednesday.
Nine Little League World Series games will be televised live on ESPN or ESPN2, as well as a hitting contest and all-star game. The championship game on Aug. 26 will be televised live on ABC Wide World of Sports at 4:30 p.m.
About 15,000 games in six weeks are played nationwide in Little League Division tournaments leading up to the regional tournaments. Teams representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia advance to the four U.S. regional tournaments, where tournament play continues for a week or more. Thirty-six states and 21 countries have sent teams to the Little League World Series since the first Series was played in 1947. Little League Baseball is the largest organized youth sports program in the world, with nearly 3 million participants in all 50 states and 103 other countries.