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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2009 > September - December > All Bases Covered: Little League Volunteer Ernie Lewis Honored for His Dedication, Years of Service to Little League

All Bases Covered: Little League Volunteer Ernie Lewis Honored for His Dedication, Years of Service to Little League

All Bases Covered: Little League Volunteer Ernie Lewis Honored for His Dedication, Years of Service to Little League

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Like a proud parent, Ernie Lewis nurtured and mentored Little Leagues in northern California for 40 years as a District Administrator, and immersed himself in the purpose and significance of the program as a member of  the Little League International Board of Directors and the President’s Advisory Board. His impending retirement was recently recognized by his peers and fellow Little League volunteers. 

“Ernie has announced that he will not be running for election at the next cycle (2010) for District Administrator,” Bill Schaeffer, California Assistant District 4 Administrator and Information Officer, said. “Ernie continues to provide guidance for leagues, always reminding them that the Little League program is not just for those few very talented players … it is for all children, regardless of their ability.”

When Mr. Lewis was elected California District 4 Administrator in 1969, Little League was celebrating its 30th anniversary, and still a boys-only program. At the time of his election, Mr. Lewis assumed the responsibility for 24 local leagues in a territory ranging from Napa in the Northern quarter of the state, south to San Ramon, to Alameda in the West and East to Rio Vista. This same area now covers not only District 4, but portions of Districts 53, 57, and 64 as well.

“Volunteers are the backbone of the Little League program,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “Ernie’s belief and enthusiasm for Little League’s goals and ideals have had a profound impact on leagues throughout Northern California. Without volunteers like Ernie Lewis, Little League would not be able hold its place as a model for leadership training and youth sports development, and we appreciated all he’s done over his four decades of service.”

In the 1970s, Mr. Lewis oversaw the expansion of Little League into the Teenage Divisions, charting the first Senior League (13-15 year olds) and Big League (16-18 year old) Baseball programs. When Little League opened its program to girls in 1974, and created its softball program, Mr. Lewis was there to embrace the change and was instrumental in pushing the softball program in his district. Today, half (8) of the leagues in California District 4 charter softball.

Entering his second decade as a DA, Mr. Lewis had garnered the trust of his fellow volunteers, which was evident in 1981, when he was elected as the Western Region’s representative to the Little League International Board of Directors. Mr. Lewis served a three-year term (1981-1983) on the Board, and then was asked by former Little League International President and Chief Executive Officer Creighton J. Hale to serve on the President’s Advisory Board.

While Mr. Lewis lent his voice and insights to operation at the international level, he continued to work tirelessly for his district. In 1980, Mr. Lewis authorized the formation of a District Volunteer Umpires Association, and to date, the Association has put on several presentations at state Little League meetings to encourage the establishment of volunteer associations in other districts. Rules clinics also have been a priority for the district staff under Mr. Lewis.

“Over the years, Ernie and I have become very close because we share the same ideals for Little League,” Mr. Schaffer said. “We always believe that any answer we give should follow the rules, and where the rules are not specific, any decision should always benefit the ballplayers.”

Mr. Lewis also was willing to embrace change as was the case with the creation of District 4’s Challenger program. Since the year that Mr. Lewis started the district’s Challenger program, the district-wide program has grown to its current 24 teams.

Safety has always been a priority for Mr. Lewis and the leagues in District 4 have followed that lead. Under his guidance, the district has achieved and maintained 100 percent participation in the Little League’s A Safety Awareness Plan (ASAP) for several years.

Mr. Lewis received his 35-year service pin at the 24th Little League International Congress convened in Houston, Texas. He is eligible for his 40-year pin at the 25th Congress set for March 2010 in Lexington, Ky.

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Ernie Lewis, California 4 District Administrator, was recently honored for his 40 years of service to the Little League program. Mr. Lewis was joined at the fete by members of his family, including his wife, Barbara (third from right), and Stephen D. Keener (second from right) Little League International’s President and Chief Executive Officer.