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Retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks and Yankees Great Bernie Williams Featured in Saturday’s Ceremonies at Little League Baseball World Series

Retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks and Yankees Great Bernie Williams Featured in Saturday’s Ceremonies at Little League Baseball World Series

GeneralTommyFranks_152px United States Central Command Commander in Chief General Tommy R. Franks listens to a reporter's question during a press brief at the Central Command briefing center in Qatar on March 22, 2003. This was his first press briefing during the opening stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Photo by Navy Petty Officer Gary P. Bonaccorso

Retired U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks will throw the ceremonial first pitch, and former New York Yankees outfielder and acclaimed guitarist Bernie Williams will perform the Star Spangled Banner, on Saturday before the U.S. Championship Game of the 63rd Little League Baseball World Series, it was announced today.

Gen. Franks retired in 2003 after more than 30 years of service, rising from the rank of private to four-star General. He served in combat in Vietnam, earning the Army Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (four times), and the Bronze Star (five times). He also received the Purple Heart three times for combat wounds. In 2004, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“There is no adequate amount of thanks we can give to soldiers like Tommy Franks,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “He rose through the ranks of the Army, establishing himself as a friend of the common soldier, to the highest rank attainable. We are honored that Gen. Franks will be with us on this special day for Little League.”

Mr. Williams, a recording artist with Reform Records, is a classically-trained musician who developed his love for playing guitar alongside baseball, while listening to salsa, merengue and 80’s rock. It will be the first time he has performed the National Anthem publicly.

“We’re thrilled to have Bernie Williams here,” Mr. Keener said. “Not only was he a talented athlete, but he also has become an accomplished musician and songwriter. We’re honored that he has chosen the Little League Baseball World Series to play the National Anthem before an audience not only of tens of thousands here, but millions around the world on ABC Television.”

“I am truly honored to come to Williamsport to perform our National Anthem at one of the world’s greatest sporting events,” Mr. Williams said. “I am excited to not only perform, but also meet with, and watch these outstanding teams who have worked so hard and excelled together, play for the title of World Series Champion. I have so many fond memories of playing Little League Baseball growing up in Puerto Rico, always dreaming of someday playing in the Major Leagues, and now that dream lives inside each one of these youngsters who will take the field this weekend. “


Former Yankees star Bernie Williams has excelled at both baseball and music.

Mr. Williams spent his entire 16-year Major League career with the Yankees, retiring after the 2006 season with a .297 batting average, 287 home runs and four World Series championship rings. He is among the Yankees all-time leaders in virtually every major offensive batting category.

He also won four Gold Gloves, and was a five-time All-Star in becoming one of the Yankees’ most beloved players. His volunteer efforts include heading up the Yankees’ involvement in the Children’s Health Fund, which provides quality medical care to thousands of homeless and uncared-for children, and is the spokesman for the Hillside Food Outreach, a volunteer food bank that feeds hungry families in New York. He also is active with several organizations in working to ensure that music continues to be taught in our schools.

Mr. Williams’ sophomore album, “Moving Forward” released in April, embraces his early influences, while also reflecting a unique mixture of classical and jazz guitar topped-off with additional Latin rhythms. Upon its release, “Moving Forward” immediately shot toward the top of the Billboard Jazz charts, premiering at No. 2, and spending five weeks there. His first single off the album, “Go For It” is currently the No. 1 song in the country on the Billboard Smooth Jazz charts. Bernie’s album will be on sale at the Little League World Series Gift Shop with proceeds from sales going to Little League Baseball and Softball.

“It is so rare to have the athletic gifts required to become a premier Major League Baseball player like Bernie Williams,” Mr. Keener said. “But to also have the gifts needed to become a great musician is even rarer. Neither of those gifts can be transferred to success without many hours of hard work. That, along with Bernie’s well-deserved reputation as a gentleman, makes him an outstanding role model for Little Leaguers.”

The last Army Post for Gen. Franks was as Commander of the United States Central Command, overseeing U.S. Armed Forces in a 25-country region, including the Middle East. Before that, he was the U.S. General leading the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan, in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. He also led the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Most of us in the United States can take our freedoms for granted,” Mr. Keener said. “But that is only because brave men and women serve selflessly in our name, willing to go into harm's way so that we can sleep peacefully at night. We're pleased to once again honor all of those currently serving, and those who have served.”

The Little League Baseball World Series began on Friday, with 16 teams from around the globe vying for the most coveted title in youth sports. The U.S. Championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. this Saturday, and it will be televised live on ABC. Sunday’s World Championship game will be played on Sunday at 3 p.m., also on ABC.

More than 30,000 people are expected each day, but as usual, there is no admission charged. Tickets for stadium seating have all been distributed for the Championship Weekend games. However, seating on the terraced hill overlooking the outfield at Howard J. Lamade Stadium is always open with no ticket required. Parking also is free.

A complete schedule of games is available at: http://www.littleleague.org/series/2009divisions/llbb/series.htm