Like Kids Again: 2008 Urban Initiative Jamboree Participants Enjoying Opportunity, Experience
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (May 24, 2008) – Nearly 200 players are spending the Memorial Day Weekend playing baseball on the fields at Little League International, while their families and the other adult accompanying the teams offer encouragement and appreciate being invited to the fifth annual Urban Initiative Jamboree.
The chance to come to the birthplace of Little League and be a part of an event that strips away the fanfare of tournament play and returns all involved to a simpler time and frame of mind is refreshing in many ways.
“I am a big kid today,” Henry Guiden, from Greenwich. (N.Y.) Little League, said. “I’m going to have myself some fun this weekend.”
Mr. Guiden has served as a volunteer umpire for 15 years, and will retire as a Little League volunteer at the end of this season. His first five years as a volunteer were in the Harlem (.N.Y.) Little League, which was a model league for what evolved into the Little League Urban Initiative program.
Jamboree games got under way on Saturday with supportive parents looking on, and enthusiasm surrounding the call of “play ball.”
This year, 28 games will be played over two days, but the memories will last forever.
Parents and other spectators enjoying the games echo that sentiment. Their admiration for this opportunity is immediate. As for the players, they are awed now, yet for many the admiration will come later.
Justin Hidleburg of Saint Albans Little League from Indianapolis, Ind., said, “If Jackie Robinson were here to see me play baseball, I’d want him to see me do my best.”
Kevin Kelly, manager of the Galilee team from James Beckum Little League (Milwaukee, Wis.) said, “It is a great honor to be here. We want to have fun, but more importantly, we will play the game the way it was meant to be played.”
From one generation to another, the emotions surrounding the Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree remain consistent and lined with hope and optimism. Living in the moment, teams want to do well, but what about in the weeks, months and years to come?
“Everyone was so excited to come to Williamsport,” Sarah Pullen, the mother of Black Rock Little League (Bridgeport, Conn.) first baseman Tyler Rodriguez said. “We never thought we’d get to a Little League World Series, so to come here is a once-a-lifetime experience for these kids.”
“The kids have been anxious since we found out we were coming, “Andy Rodriguez, Tyler’s father, said. “The Jamboree has been the talk of our league, and I think now that they’ve played on the fields and seen what it’s like here, they’ll be talking about it forever.”
When asked about the impact on their league, both said they expect this opportunity to have a long-term effect on enrollment of players and involvement by adult volunteers.
“This will definitely be positive for our league,” Mr. Rodriguez said. “I think this is the coolest thing, and I’ll bet that kids going school with our boys who don’t play baseball will be jealous.”
Future opportunities and positive outlooks also were common themes among parents and adult volunteers. Playing the games is exciting to watch, but to many the chance to travel and meet new people is equally important.
“As a parent you want to open doors for kids,” Randy Goggins, the father of Forest Park Little League’s B.J. Goggins, said. “To play someone different and meet people from all over the country is not the type of thing you get to do everyday.
“This weekend is a wonderful because off of the baseball field there is a great chance to get different perspectives,” Mr. Goggins, who has three sons playing in the Forest Park Little League (Baltimore, Md.), said. “You always want kids excited to do there best, and here they’re getting the best of both worlds – I’m really impressed.”
All of the participants in the Urban Initiative Jamboree will have a chance to visit the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum, located on the Little League International complex in South Williamsport. Each of the teams also will travel across the west branch of the Susquehanna River into Williamsport to visit Carl Stotz Field, the original home of Little League Baseball.
Closing ceremonies of the 2008 Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree will take place Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. in Howard J. Lamade Stadium.