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President Bush, Little League Teams from Brooklyn, Los Angeles Honor Jackie Robinson at White House Tee Ball Game
Players from the Los Angeles team are thrilled to meet Dugout, Little League’s mascot.
The ceremony was followed by a spirited Tee Ball game between the Highlanders of Brooklyn’s Inner City Little League, and the Dodgers of Los Angeles’ Wrigley Little League.
In keeping with the tradition of Tee Ball on the South Lawn games, no score was kept. Each player on both teams played on defense and batted once in the one-inning game, followed by a picnic on the South Lawn for players and families. A baseball autographed by President George W. Bush was presented – by the president himself – to each player, manager, and coach.
All the players on both teams wore the No. 42 in a tribute to the legacy left to all of sports by the late Mr. Robinson, who broke baseball’s “color barrier” when he played for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. The team moved to Los Angeles in 1958, and Mr. Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962
Others attending included First Lady Laura Bush, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson, and U.S. Senator John Warner of Virginia.
From the baseball world, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, the first African-American to become a Major League manager, was the honorary commissioner. Former Dodgers at the game included Don Newcombe and Tommy Lasorda. The play-by-play announcer was ESPN’s Karl Ravech.
Len Coleman, former president of the National League and current trustee of the Little League Foundation, presented the President with a Jackie Robinson jersey, on behalf of the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Robinson family. Mr. Coleman was named chairman of the Jackie Robinson Foundation in 1996. A graduate of the Little League Baseball program in Montclair, N.J., Mr. Coleman was enshrined in the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence in 1996.
Presenting the game ball to President Bush at the start of the game was Challenger Division player Matthew Hearon of Tuckahoe (Va.) Little League. The National Anthem was performed by R&B recording artist Mario.
Both of the teams are from leagues that are part of the Little League Urban Initiative. The program now operates in more than 80 cities in the U.S., serving more than 33,000 players. The goal of the Little League Urban Initiative is to use the ball field as a classroom, to help children in urban areas learn the values of discipline, teamwork, self-esteem, sportsmanship, and fair play – values that will guide them into adulthood. The program also touches the lives of the volunteer adults who dedicate themselves to improving their communities and families.
The teams were able to make the trip thanks to some help from some good friends. Expenses for the game itself were provided by Subway Restaurants, Musco Sports Lighting, New Era Cap Co., and AIG Insurance.
Helping to make the trip possible for the Los Angeles team were two trustees of the Little League Foundation (former Dodgers president Peter O’Malley, and the chairman of the Poongsan Corporation in South Korea, Jin Roy Ryu), and the current owners of the Los Angeles Dodgers (Frank and Jamie McCourt). The New York Mets funded the Brooklyn team’s trip.
The donated funds provided round-trip transportation for the team, manager, coaches, family members and a handful of other guests, plus lodging and meals for the three-day trip in the Wrigley Little League team’s case.
“We’re grateful to everyone involved for taking part in this initiative,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “They know the importance of Jackie Robinson’s legacy to the future of baseball.”
The game was the 17th on the South Lawn of the White House since May 6, 2001, when President Bush began the initiative as a way to boost interest in youth sports among children and parents.
President Bush, the first former Little Leaguer to be elected to the nation’s highest office, played Little League Baseball at Central Little League in Midland, Texas, in the mid-1950s. He was on the Cubs, and was a catcher. In 2001, President Bush was enshrined in the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence when he visited the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
The game was the second of the 2007 Tee Ball on the South Lawn season, the first to feature a team from New York City, and the first to include a team from the West Coast. A team from Uniondale Little League in Long Island, N.Y., is the only other team from the state of New York to have played on the South Lawn, on May 5, 2002.
Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest youth sports organization, with nearly 2.7 million children participating in every U.S. state and dozens of other countries on six continents. Little League is the only youth sports organization to be chartered by the U.S. Congress.
|R&B recording artist Mario sings the National Anthem.|
|President Bush, with Hall of Famer Frank Robinson at right, addresses the teams and crowd before the game. At each Tee Ball on the South Lawn game, the President leads the teams in reciting the Little League Pledge – the same pledge he recited as a Little Leaguer in Midland, Texas, in the 1950s.|
|President Bush and Mr. Robinson hang the number “42” on the backstop, officially retiring Jackie Robinson’s uniform number at White House Tee Ball games. All of the players on both teams wore No. 42 in tribute to Jackie Robinson.|
|Len Coleman, former president of the National League and current trustee of the Little League Foundation, greets President Bush in the pre-game ceremony. Mr. Coleman presented the President with a Jackie Robinson jersey, on behalf of the Jackie Robinson Foundation and the Robinson family.|
|ESPN Baseball Tonight host Karl Ravech was the public address announcer for the Tee Ball game. Mr. Ravech also was the master of ceremonies at a luncheon honoring former President George H.W. Bush in Houston at Little League’s International Congress earlier this year.|
|It’s going to be a close play at first, as honorary first base coach Don Newcombe (right), the former Dodger pitching great, looks on.|
|Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, the honorary third base coach, gives base running tips to a player from Brooklyn.|
|A Los Angeles runner eludes the tag at home.|
|A Brooklyn player drives the ball off the tee.|
|Post-game high fives ended the spirited contest.|
|At the end of the game, each player met President Bush, and received a baseball bearing the Presidential Seal, as well as the President’s autograph.|
|At the post-game picnic, both teams gathered for a photo at the backstop.|