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2008 Fifth Annual Urban Initiative Jamboree Showcases Heart, Hustle and Togetherness

Read more about the 2008 Urban Initiative Jamboree in these stories:

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (May 29, 2008) - The players were weary, but their hearts had plenty of hustle left, as the final outs of the 2008 Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree at Little League International in Williamsport, were recorded.

With 28 games played over Memorial Day Weekend, the 14 teams participating in the fifth annual Jamboree enjoyed two days of memorable experiences, opportunities and adulation.

This participant in the 2008 Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree shows off his medal following the closing ceremony Sunday night at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Pa.

The time spent in Williamsport was equally significant for the local league officials, the parents who made the trip, and the volunteer umpire calling the games.

"Nothing is more amazing than this," Willie T. Clark, Sr., an umpire in the Macon (Ga.) Little League, said. "Its great to have these kids playing on these fields. I’ve been umpiring Little League games for 58 years, and I can say the kids keep me motivated. Having the Urban Jamboree gives these kids the chance to say, ‘I played on those fields you see on TV during the Little League World Series.’"

Following Friday night’s opening ceremony; all of the teams were welcomed to the dining hall inside the Creighton J. Hale International Grove for Major League Baseball’s presentation of Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life.

David James, Director of MLB’s Reviving Baseball in the Inner Cities (RBI) program, presented the program which 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.

Tony Richardson, Little League’s New Jersey State Director, also addressed the 200 players, more than 40 coaches and managers, and other Little League officials and volunteers.

A collector of baseball artifacts and Negro League historian, Mr. Richardson shared stories of Mr. Robinson’s impact on and off the baseball field.

Telling those in attendance, "What Jackie did transcended sports," Mr. Richardson, explained the significance of Mr. Robinson’s roll in shedding stereotypes and creating social, economic and educational opportunities for minorities in and out of the sports arena.

Throughout the weekend, the 10 Major Division teams played games on Howard J. Lamade Stadium, site of the Little League Baseball World Series since 1959. The 11-12 year-old players also traveled to Max Brown Park and played games on Carl E. Stotz Field, the site of the first 12 Little League World Series.

All of the Junior Leagues teams played on the standard size baseball diamonds located on the Little League International complex.

"This is a beautiful place and it’s wonderful to be here," Julious Parker, a volunteer attending the Jamboree with the James Beckum Little League from Milwaukee Wis., said. "For me, it is truly an accomplishment to be a part of the Jamboree. I played in James Beckum Little League and I’ve been umpiring in the league for three years. It’s just awesome to be invited, and I wish I was in the players’ shoes.

"My reason for becoming an umpire was to give back to the league," Mr. Parker said. "I wanted to be a positive role model. As an umpire, I can get involved with all of the players not just those kids on one team.

Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, shakes hands with Benjamin Barnes YMCA Little League Manager Clifford Brown from Tuscaloosa, Ala., after presenting him with his participation medal during the closing ceremony of the fifth annual Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree. In the
background, Patrick W. Wilson, Little League Baseball and Softball’s Vice President of
Operations, assists with the medal presentation.

"I think instilling the values of Little League is more challenging today, but for me, I’ve learned a lot by coming here," he said. "For the players, I think they look at being at the Jamboree as a special time and from the effort and hustle I’ve seen its obvious to me they were excited to be in Williamsport."

Despite playing plenty of baseball, the players did have the time to enjoy their visit with members of their families that made the trip, as well as the other Jamboree participants.

For Mr. Clark, a retired court bailiff from Macon, Ga., this was a special time.

"It was a pleasure to work with the other umpires and see the kids having fun," Mr. Clark said. "Everyday is a different game and a difference experience. My goal is to umpire 60 years, but in all of those years, coming here caps it form me. It’s like playing in the World Series for the first time in my last year of playing – This was great!"

Julio Valdez was another member of the umpiring crew who made the trip along with the Magnolia National Little League team from Houston, Texas.

Mr. Valdez had his son, Josh, playing on the Astros team. He enjoyed the unique chance to see the Jamboree from field and through his son’s eyes.

"I think the kids aren’t aware of what they are doing," Mr. Valdez, a graduate of Magnolia National Little League and volunteer umpire for four years, said. "In a few months, when they’re watching the Little League World Series on TV, that’s when they’ll really appreciate this trip.

"The teams played hard for themselves and wanted to win," Mr. Valdez said. "I am a baseball enthusiast, and was as excited as the kids to be coming to where the World Series is played. For me and my family it was an honor to be here."

The fifth annual Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree was sponsored by Major League Baseball. Photos from this year’s Jamboree can be found here. More information on the Little League Urban Initiative can be found here.

Todd Wier, a coach with the James Beckum Little League from Milwaukee, Wis., shakes hands with league founder James Beckum following the fifth annual Little League Urban Jamboree’s closing ceremony.