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Little League Champs Meet With President in Oval Office

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 7, 2007) – Meeting with the President has been a tradition for Little League Baseball World Series champions, dating back to the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose son, David, played Little League in Gettysburg, Pa.

President George W. Bush stands with members of the 2007 Little League World Series Championship team of Warner Robins, Ga., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2007, in the Oval Office. White House photo by Eric Draper

This year is no different, as President George W. Bush met with the manager, coach and players from the champions of the 2007 Little League Baseball World Series from Warner Robins (Ga.) American Little League recently in the Oval Office of the White House.

The President congratulated the Georgia players on their efforts, and he stressed the importance of making the right decisions in life. The team gathered around the President’s desk (made from the timbers of the British warship HMS Resolute), and chatted for 15 minutes on subjects ranging from the team’s experiences in Williamsport, to the meaning of the Presidential Seal, to his own experiences as a Little Leaguer and his visit to the Little League Baseball World Series final game in 2001. The team then took a two-hour guided tour of the mansion.

Each player also received a baseball bearing the Presidential Seal and the President’s autograph.

Attending the event was Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball.

“Little League is fortunate to have such a good friend in the White House,” Mr. Keener said. “As a former Little Leaguer, President Bush recognizes the great benefits that come from good clean competition in a safe atmosphere. We are honored that he has continued the long tradition of recognizing the Little League World Series champions.”

The team also met with Georgia’s U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, and U.S. Representatives Jim Marshall, John Barrow, and Paul Broun. They also were treated to a tour of the Capitol.

Last year, the President met the members of the Columbus Northern Little League, which won the 2006 Little League Baseball World Series Championship, at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Ga. A day later, the President was greeted by members of the Mattawan Little League Softball team from Mattawan, Mich., at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Mich.

President Bush is the first Little League graduate to attain the highest office in the United States. He played Little League Baseball in Midland, Texas, for several years in the 1950s, and has remarked several times that his Little League memories are among the fondest of his childhood.

During his remarks at the 2001 Little League Baseball World Series, at which President Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch and was enshrined in the Little League Museum Hall of Excellence, he said: “I equate Little League Baseball with good families.”

Little League Baseball is the world's largest organized youth sports program. With nearly 2.7 million Little Leaguers and more than a million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and dozens other countries, no other youth sports organization comes close.

Besides meeting with Little League Baseball and Softball World Series champions, other U.S. Presidents have honored Little League in other ways.

• Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy both proclaimed National Little League Week as the week in which Flag Day occurs in June each year.

• President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the legislation giving Little League its federal charter.

• President Ronald Reagan invited Little Leaguers to a celebration on the South Lawn of the White House in 1984.

• President George H.W. Bush commemorated Little League's 50th Anniversary at the White House in 1989, and personally delivered Poland’s first Little League charter to that country later that year.

Each year, Little League International administers the Tee Ball on the South Lawn program – the President's initiative to increase the awareness of baseball and softball, particularly among families with young children.

(More information on Tee Ball on the South Lawn can be found here: http://www.littleleague.org/media/teeballselection.asp)

The Warner Robins Little League team poses for a team photo in the East Room, near Gilbert Stuart's 1796 painting of George Washington. The painting was rescued nearly 200 years ago by First Lady Dolley Madison when she refused to abandon the portrait as she fled from the British in 1814. She wrote to her sister on the day of the fire: "Our kind friend, Mr. Carroll, has come to hasten my departure, and is in a very bad humor with me because I insist on waiting until the large picture of Gen. Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found to be too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvas taken out; it is done--and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen of New York, for safe keeping." Her efforts were successful, and the portrait was returned to the White House when the rebuilding was completed.

Two Warner Robins Little League players admire the furnishings in the White House’s Red Room. Originally known as the “Washington Parlor,” the room assumed its current name during the administration of President James Polk, when he and Mrs. Polk furnished the room with a dark crimson French Antique style suite and a ruby carpet in 1845.

A Warner Robins Little League player takes a photo of George P. A. Healy’s 1869 portrait of President Abraham Lincoln, donated to the White House in 1939, above the mantel. In the final year of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered President John Adams’s famous blessing carved on the stone fireplace of the State Dining Room where it can be seen today. On November 2, 1800, President Adams wrote to his wife: "I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof."

Warner Robins Little League team manager Mickey Lay and his son, Taylor Lay, pose for a photo under Aaron Shikler’s portrait of President John F. Kennedy.

The Warner Robins Little League team makes its way out of the White House after the two-hour tour.