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Little League International, Torii Hunter Project and Major League Baseball Partner to Host Fourth Annual Urban Initiative Jamboree

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (May 8, 2007) – Through the generosity of the Torii Hunter Project and Major League Baseball, 14 regular season teams from urban communities and neighborhoods will be making the memorable trip to Williamsport, Pa., the home of Little League Baseball and Softball, for the fourth annual Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree, over the extended Memorial Day Weekend, May 25-28.

Major League Baseball (MLB), founding partner of the Jamboree, continues to provide support to the program as it has for the first three years. This year, MLB will again present all Jamboree participants with information about baseball hall of famer Jackie Robinson and the season-long celebration of the 60th anniversary of his entrance into the Major Leagues, the first African-American to do so in Major League Baseball’s modern era.

“Major League Baseball is proud to continue our support of Little League and its Urban Initiative Jamboree,” Allan H. (Bud) Selig, MLB commissioner, said. “It represents one of the many MLB-supported community initiatives that provide an opportunity for kids to play safe, organized baseball and softball.”

Recognizing the merits of the Urban Initiative and the unique opportunity afforded by the Jamboree, Torii Hunter, the All-Star outfielder for the Minnesota Twins, and several fellow Major League Baseball players, have contributed funds to support the 2007 Jamboree through the Torii Hunter Project, which is designed to encourage more African American children to play baseball. For years, the Little League Urban Initiative – Little League’s endeavor to bring the benefits of the program to families in urban areas – has provided young people a chance to play baseball where there was once little opportunity.

“The Urban Initiative addresses a specific area of concern, and I, along with some of my Major League friends, am pleased to be a part of the program,” Mr. Hunter said. “It is my hope that this is just a start, and hopefully more kids will play this game of baseball as a result of our efforts.”

These children from 14 Urban Initiative leagues (10 Major Division teams; four Junior Division teams) will be embarking on a unique and educational journey when they travel to Little League International, site of the annual Little League Baseball World Series.

On May 25-27, games will be played at Howard J. Lamade and Little League Volunteer Stadiums, sites of the annual World Series games; along with Carl Stotz Memorial Field, near the site of the first Little League games in 1939, and home to Original League. The Junior Division teams will play on the two standard-size fields at the Little League International complex.

In 2004, eight Urban Initiative leagues from the Eastern U.S. took part in the inaugural Jamboree. The last two years, 10 regular-season teams from leagues aided by, or chartered through, the Urban Initiative traveled to Little League International from various points throughout the country.

“The Little League Urban Initiative has evolved into a vital component of Little League,” Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “The smiles on the faces of the players, parents and local league officials attending the annual Jamboree express that success, but moreover illustrate the appreciation for the program, and reinforce how important a role Little League can play in a child’s life.”

Participating in the Jamboree will be Little League programs from the following cities: Albuquerque, N.M. (Thunderbird Little League); Tampa, Fla. (Belmont Heights Little League and North Seminole Little League); Pittsburgh, Pa. (North Braddock Little League); Sacramento, Calif. (Oak Park Little League); Chicago (Broadview Youth Little League); Portland, Ore. (Peninsula Little League); Houston, Texas (OFA Little League); Asbury Park, N.J. (Asbury Park Little League); Bridgeport, Conn. (Park City Little League); Akron, Ohio (West Akron Little League); Kansas City, Mo. (Kansas City East Little League), Brockton, Mass. (Brockton South West Little League); and Ft. Wayne, Ind. (District 10 Southeast Little League). One volunteer umpire from each league also will participate.

The Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree will consist of games, instruction, and other events to be announced. Although scores will be kept for the games, no champion will be declared. The public is invited to watch the games at no charge.

Major League Baseball will host a Pepsi Pitch, Hit and Run competition for Jamboree players. Pepsi’s Pitch, Hit and Run is the official skills competition of Major League Baseball. Participants have the opportunity to advance through four levels of competition: Local, Sectional, MLB Team Championship competitions and the National Finals at this summer’s All-Star Game in San Francisco, Calif.

“The Urban Initiative Jamboree provides a unique opportunity for children who would not normally have the means to participate,” David James, director of the Little League Urban Initiative, said. “The coaches and families will experience the friendship and celebration that all-star players enjoy during the Little League World Series, while the players will get the chance to play on the same fields where Little League’s world champion is crowned, and where the program started.”

Because many of the Little League Urban Initiative leagues and independent organizations operating in these environments face the same problems, networking opportunities are crucial to the growth of a volunteer-based organization. Little League encourages mentoring relationships with other Urban Initiative leagues, working toward positive relationships with the appropriate municipal agencies, developing an assessment of their program’s budgetary needs and concerns, and compiling a list of funding opportunities in their communities.

The Little League Urban Initiative has seen success in more than 85 U.S. cities since it began in 2000. In the past year, Lemon Grove Little League and Encanto Little League near San Diego; Neartown Little League in Houston; Culver Marina Little League in Los Angeles; and South Side Little League in Chicago were among several leagues that received funding and assistance through the Little League Urban Initiative. Currently, more than 200 local Little Leagues in the U.S. are part of the Urban Initiative. Through 2006, the program stimulated the addition of 2,779 teams and 33,000 players.

The Major Leaguers who have made financial contributions to the Torii Hunter Project, are Mr. Hunter’s teammates Rondell White and Shannon Stewart, along with Derrek Lee and Jacque Jones of the Chicago Cubs, the Baltimore Orioles’ LaTroy Hawkins, Ken Griffey, Jr., of the Cincinnati Reds, the Florida Marlins’ Dontrelle Willis, Joey Gathright of the Kansas City Royals, and former Little League Baseball World Series player and current Detroit Tiger, Gary Sheffield.

To view photos from the 2006 Urban Initiative Jamboree, Click Here.