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Opportunity, Excitement Abound as Teams Arrive for 2009 Urban Initiative Jamboree
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More than 150 players and adult volunteers are getting the opportunity to participate in the sixth annual Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree. For the past five years, teams from Little Leagues across the nation that have been aided or chartered through Urban Initiative, have traveled to the Little League International Complex to take part in the event.
“Some kids don’t get to come here, so our kids are going to take advantage of the opportunity and just enjoy it,” Stevie Allen, manager of Seattle Central Little League, said. “I was ecstatic myself because that’s why I started coaching. I said, ‘I would love to take a team to the Little League World Series,’ but I didn’t think it would come like this.”
Games at the Jamboree will be played Saturday and Sunday at Howard J. Lamade Stadium and Little League Volunteer Stadium, the sites of the annual World Series games, and at Carl Stotz Memorial Field, near the location of the first Little League games in 1939. Junior League teams will play their games on standard-size fields at the Little League International Complex.
Through the Little League Urban Initiative, nearly 3,900 teams and 50,000 players in 85 U.S. cities have joined Little League since 2000. This year’s Jamboree is hosting 132 players, 29 coaches and managers and eight volunteer umpires.
Teams from the following cities are participating in this year’s event: Tampa, Fla. (Skyway Park Little League); Lancaster, Pa. (Lancaster Recreational Little League); Jersey City, N.J. (Jackie Robinson Little League); Houston (South Central Little League); Detroit. (THINK Detroit PAL Northwest Little League); Dayton, Ohio (First Dayton Little League); Syracuse, N.Y. (Inner City Little League); Atlanta, Ga. (South Fulton Little League); Memphis, Tenn. (Memphis Little League); and Seattle (Seattle Central Little League).
“We’re going to bring a lot back,” Francisco Vega, THINK Detroit PAL Northwest Little League manager, said. Urging his players to consider themselves as ambassadors, Mr. Vega said, “Just in the short time we’ve been here, I’ve seen them grow closer and closer together. Just imagine when they go back to school Tuesday and they talk about this place.”
All of the teams had arrived at the complex by Friday evening. After getting settled into their accommodations inside the Creighton J. Hale International Grove - the same facility used by teams during the World Series - umpires, coaches, players and their families made their way to Lamade Stadium for the first time to be officially welcomed to the Jamboree. There, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball Stephen Keener reminded the players of the significance of the event.
“You’re probably only going to have this opportunity one time,” Mr. Keener said. “So make the most of it and enjoy it.”
Players received plenty of inspiration as the night continued. Mr. Keener told the story of former Little Leaguer Michael Cammarata, who played in the 1991 Little League World Series. Mr. Cammarata, a member of the New York City Fire Department, died will attempting to rescue victims of the the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11, 2001. His No. 11 worn during the ’91 Series was retired by Little League in 2002, and adorns the right field fence at Lamade and Little League Volunteer Stadiums.
Following the opening ceremony, Tony Richardson, Little League’s New Jersey State Director, who is an avid collector of Negro League memorabilia, gave a presentation entitled: “Breaking Barriers, In Sports, In Life.” This 13-year-old Major League Baseball-sponsored program uses Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson’s nine values to teach children the ability to overcome the challenges they will face in life.
Saturday’s first games begin at 9:30 a.m. and continue throughout the day until the final games at 7 p.m. Sunday’s contests begin at 1 p.m., with the final games scheduled for 6 p.m. Fans are encouraged to attend all games free of charge. Scores will be kept, but no champion will be declared at the end of the weekend. In addition to the games, the Baseball Factory, an organization whose goal is to help players develop the skills to make it to the collegiate level, will provide a skills challenge and special instruction for all Jamboree participants.
The players and coaches are excited for both the opportunity to be involved in the Jamboree and to compete against teams from across the country.
“Obviously it’s an opportunity for them to come together as a team, but in a way that we can’t at home,” Ross Andrews, Inner City Little League Manager, said. “We play together, they get together and some of them go to school together, but to have this kind of intensive time together is a special opportunity. They get to bring back a lifetime of stories.”
“It’s like a lottery almost,” Terrence Morris, a player for THINK Detroit PAL Northwest Little League, said. “It’s like a one-in-a-million chance to come here. And if we really do win, we get the bragging rights. It’s like a dream.”