Former Major League Player, Manager Dusty Baker to Attend Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree in Williamsport
Mr. Baker will attend the Jamboree on Sunday, May 27 and address the participants, parents, and fans during the closing ceremonies at 8 p.m., Sunday night in Howard J. Lamade Stadium, site of the annual Little League Baseball World Series. There is no admission charged for any of the Jamboree events.
“There has been a lot of lip service about getting African-American children back playing baseball, but for big leaguers like Torii Hunter, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Jacque Jones to put their time, money and energy into something like the Jamboree, you know they, and Major League Baseball, are serious,” Mr. Baker said.
“I understand the Jamboree is relatively new, but it’s a giant step,” Mr. Baker said. “Baseball doesn’t look as glamorous as other sports, but if you present the game in a way that is fun the children will become interested, the parents will no longer be naïve about the game, and then they all will be able to appreciate the beauty of the game.”
A native of Riverside, Calif., Johnnie B. “Dusty” Baker, Jr., was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 1967 amateur draft. One year later, the 19-year-old made his Major League debut with the Braves.
After eight seasons in Atlanta, Mr. Baker was traded to the Los
Angeles Dodgers following the 1975 season. He spent eight seasons
with the Dodgers, highlighted by four trips to the playoffs, three
World Series appearances and one world title in 1981. In that
championship season, culminating with a win over the New York
Yankees in the World Series, Mr. Baker made the first of two
all-star game appearances, won a Gold Glove Award, and hit for a
.320 batting average.
In 1984, Mr. Baker joined the San Francisco Giants as a free agent. Prior to the 1985 season, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics, where he spent two years prior to retiring as a player after 19 seasons. For his career, Mr. Baker posted a .278 batting average in 2,039 games, with 242 home runs and 1,014 runs batted in.
Mr. Baker began his coaching career in 1988 with San Francisco, and was on the staff until 1992 when he hired as the team’s manager prior to the 1993 season. In nine years with the Giants, Mr. Baker was named manager of the year three times. In his first season, the team won 103 games, a National League record for first-year managers. Over six seasons, Mr. Baker’s Giants posted a 547-425 record, and won the National League pennant in 2002.
In 2003, Mr. Baker left the Giants for the Chicago Cubs, where he was the manager for four seasons. From 2003 through 2006, Mr. Baker’s team amassed a record of 322-326. The Cubs’ 2003 season ended with a loss to the Florida Marlins in the National League Championship Series. In 16 seasons as a manager, Mr. Baker compiled a record of 1,162-1,041.
“Whenever kids are involved I try to help out,” Mr. Baker said “It’s great that the kids can travel to the Jamboree and meet kids from other parts of the country. It’s a great way for them to get an education that they will carry with them throughout their lives, whether they make the big leagues or not.
“I run into kids all the time who make me feel good about the impact I’ve had on their athletic and personal lives,” Mr. Baker said. “When I speak to the players at the Jamboree I know my message will come from my experiences and my heart.”
Currently, Mr. Baker is working as an analyst for ESPN’s coverage of Major League Baseball.
“Dusty Baker embraces the responsibility that comes with being a role model and Little League is proud to have him come to the Urban Initiative Jamboree,” David James, director of the Little League Urban Initiative, said. “Mr. Baker has been gracious with his time in support of Little League’s efforts to promote children playing baseball. Whether in urban neighborhoods in the United States, or traveling abroad, his willingness to reach out and offer his experiences to the next generation of players makes him a beacon for the possibilities that lie head for these children.”
Also attending this year’s Urban Initiative Jamboree will be Tony Richardson, the Little League state director for New Jersey. He will be displaying his personal collection of Negro League baseball memorabilia at the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum throughout the Jamboree. Mr. Richardson’s artifacts will highlight 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 do so in Major League Baseball’s modern era.
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 Fort 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,” Mr. James 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 Mr. Jones of the Chicago Cubs, the Baltimore Orioles’ LaTroy Hawkins, Mr. 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.