Teams from Across the United States Arrive in Williamsport for the 2008 Fifth Annual Urban Initiative Jamboree
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (May 25, 2008) - For 14 regular season Little League teams, the dream of playing in Williamsport has now become a reality with the opening of the fifth annual Urban Initiative Jamboree.
Teams from Stockton (Calif.) Little League and Holly Park Little League in Los Angeles were the first to reach Little League International, while the remainder of the teams arrived Friday afternoon.
"Being here is a dream,” Tyrone Marzett, Holly Park Little League manager, said. "We were supposed to leave Los Angeles at 5 a.m. on Thursday, but were delayed until 4 p.m. After a four-hour drive from New York City, we got to Williamsport around four in the morning. We were tired, but now that were here, we all realize how lucky we are.
"Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces is more exciting than words can explain,” Mr. Marzett said. "Speaking for myself, our coaches and our league, it is our pleasure to be able to make this trip and represent our league. We are all fortunate for this opportunity because we would never be able to come here otherwise.”
After settling into the dormitory inside the Creighton J. Hale International Grove (the housing facility where the teams participating in the annual Little League Baseball World Series stay for the duration of the two-week tournament), teams were formally introduced during the Jamboree’s opening ceremony held Friday night in Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
Nearly 200 players, 40 coaches and 15 volunteer umpires were welcomed to the 2008 Jamboree by Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball; Nick Caringi, Little League’s Director of Operations, and David James, Director of Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.
"It is a great pleasure to have you here,” Mr. Keener said. "You are all very special, because of the three million players and 175,000 teams playing Little League this year, you 14 teams where chosen to be here.”
Major League Baseball (MLB), founding partner of the Jamboree, continues to provide support to the program as it has for the first four years. This year, Mr. James presented Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life, to all Jamboree participants. The Breaking Barriers program is a multi-curricular character education program that was developed by MLB and Scholastic Inc. The 12-year program utilizes baseball-themed features, activities and lessons to teach children in grades 4-8 the values and traits they need to deal with the barriers and challenges in their lives. Using baseball as a metaphor for life, the curriculum is based on nine values demonstrated by the late Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.
"Major League Baseball is proud to be one of the founding partners of the Urban Initiative Jamboree,” Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said. "We continue to remain committed to making sure that all kids who wish to play baseball have an opportunity to do so. The Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree provides those opportunities and we are happy to play a role in making this dream trip a reality for teams involved.”
Also participating in the Jamboree are Little League programs from the following cities: Tuscaloosa, Ala (YMCA-Barnes Branch Little League); Chicago (Jackie Robinson West Little League); Bridgeport, Conn., (Black Rock Little League); Houston (Magnolia National Little League); Indianapolis (Saint Albans Little League); Johns Island, S.C. (Low Country Little League); Dallas (West Dallas Little League); Macon, Ga. (Macon Little League); Trenton, N.J. (6-11 Little League), Milwaukee (James Beckum West Little League); New York (Greenwich Village Little League); and Baltimore (Forest Park Little League). One volunteer umpire from each league will be participating in the games.
"Appreciate this opportunity,” Mr. James said. "Later this summer when you’re watching the Little League World Series on TV you can say proudly, ‘I played on those fields.’
"Remember,” Mr. James said, "you are representing your team, your league, your city and your state. Playing baseball in this event is about much more than winning and losing.”
On Saturday and Sunday, games will be played at Lamade Stadium, site of the annual World Series championship game; 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. That number was expanded to 10 teams in 2005 and 2006, as teams from across the United States participated.
Last year, 14 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 filled a void in many neighborhoods and has become a cornerstone for many metropolitan communities,” Mr. Keener said. "The relevance and impact of the Urban Initiative Jamboree is evident by the enthusiasm of those who participate. 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.”
The Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree consists of games, instruction, and other events. 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 Pitch, Hit and Run competition for Jamboree players. 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 New York City.
"Each year the Urban Initiative Jamboree offers children a unique opportunity to visit Little League’s birthplace and experience all the sites and sounds enjoyed by teams that reach the Little League Baseball World Series,” Patrick W. Wilson, Vice President of Operations for Little League Baseball and Softball, said. "For five years, Jamboree participants have reveled in the chance to play on the World Series fields. Equally satisfying has been the appreciation and respect expressed by the coaches and families who recognize that these found memories will be theirs forever.”
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 85 U.S. cities since it began in 2000, and has participated in 21 field renovation/development projects. Currently, more than 200 local Little Leagues in the U.S. are part of the Urban Initiative. Through 2007, the program stimulated the addition of nearly 3,000 teams and 43,000 players.