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Little League Takes Part in Baseball Delegation to Ghana

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Feb. 16, 2007) –Dan Velte, director of league development for Little League Baseball and Softball, recently traveled to Ghana as part of a goodwill delegation with designs on furthering the growth of baseball in Ghana and throughout West Africa.

George Ntim, president and founder of the African Development Foundation (ADF), organized the visit to the Ghanaian capital of Accra and its sister city, Tema. A native Ghanaian, Mr. Ntim immigrated to the United States many years ago. He resides in New York City, and is the director of guest relations and community services for the Times Square Marriott Marquis.

“George is such a baseball fan and wants his country to have the opportunity to enjoy the sport,” Mr. Velte said. “Ghana looked to (Little League) for structure and George feels having Little League will help the country.”

While in Ghana, Mr. Velte presented the Ghana Baseball and Softball Association (GHABSA) with two Wilson’s Sporting Goods Starter Kits, which provide a variety of baseball gear, including gloves, bats, balls, batter’s helmets and catcher’s equipment. The Wilson’s Sporting Goods Company is an official corporate sponsor of Little League Baseball and Softball.

Through the ADF’s professional relationship with Major League Baseball, Mr. Ntim was able to organize the trip which included several former Major League Baseball players, and reinforced his efforts toward establishing an infrastructure for baseball in Ghana, and throughout Africa. Baseball was introduced to the nation of Ghana in the early 1990s, but this is the first time Little League has established a foothold there.

“I’ve followed local Little League organizations in New York City, and attended International Opening Day in Harlem last year,” Mr. Ntim said. “I’m convinced that through the resources that Little League can provide we can replicate that type of success in Ghana. The ADF will supply the children with the resources and all they have to do is show up and play.”

Mr. Velte, who was personally invited to Ghana by Mr. Ntim, said that Little League was approached nearly a year ago about the prospects of establishing Little League programs in the country.

“Ghana is similar to other countries in their interest in baseball,” Mr. Velte said. “The Ghana Baseball and Softball Association is excited about what’s happening in the country, but the children need to be educated in the game of baseball. The government is receptive and enthused about establishing leagues in numerous cities throughout the country, and Ghana Little League officials can’t wait to get the resources to go at this full speed.”

Mr. Ntim said an exposure and education campaign aimed at Ghanaian children and potential Little League volunteers is on the horizon.

“Prior to the announcement that the delegation was coming, the Ghanaian children had no idea who these Major Leaguers were,” Mr. Ntim said. “Once we introduced the Major League players, the children were excited to meet them, and can look to them as role models.”

While in Ghana, the University of Ghana, the ADF and GHABSA signed a memorandum of understanding to promote and develop baseball in Ghana. As part of the agreement a portion of the university’s campus will be developed by the ADF and become the sight of country’s first baseball field.

Among the delegation members representing Major League Baseball were New York Mets’ General Manager Omar Minaya, former major league player and manager Dusty Baker, Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, and ex-big leaguers Reggie Smith and Al Jackson. During their visit, the group met with the country’s ministers of sport and tourism, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Pamela Bridgewater and Ghanaian Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama.

The African Development Foundation (ADF) invited Dan Velte, Little League Baseball and Softball’s director of league development, to be a part of goodwill delegation to the African nation of Ghana that included National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum member Dave Winfield, former Major League Baseball player and manager Dusty Baker, New York Mets’ General Manager Omar Minaya, and former Major Leaguers Reggie Smith and Al Jackson. While in Ghana, the ADF, the Ghana Baseball and Softball Association and the University of Ghana signed a memorandum of understanding to promote and develop baseball in Ghana.