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Bill Haley Recognized by Little League as 2010 Howard and Gail Paster Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year

Bill Haley Recognized by Little League as 2010 Howard and Gail Paster Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year


One of the reasons Little League Baseball and Softball has become the most recognized youth sports organization in the world, is the fact one member of a family gets involved, and eventually it becomes something the whole family is involved in, sometimes covering generations. This willingness of people to volunteer their time and efforts is the foundation of the Little League organization.

Bill Haley, a second generation Little League volunteer, has been involved with Jackie Robinson West Little League, in the city of Chicago, since he suited up for his first game at the age of 7. For his part in keeping the league a viable option for children in the Windy City, Mr. Haley has been selected as the recipient of the Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award.

"Bill Haley, having been around the Jackie Robinson West Little League literally his whole life, understands and appreciates the unique challenges of operating a Little League program in an urban area," Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. "Mr. Haley has been able to continue the building process started by his father keeping the league among the community treasures in the city of Chicago."

The lifelong Chicago resident understands the importance of the league to that area of the city with his first-hand experience having grown up with the league.

"I am proud of what our family and many, many others have built," Mr. Haley said. "Jackie Robinson West has provided a consistent activity for children in the area for many years. There has never been a question whether Little League would be available to anyone in the neighborhood each summer. That is probably what I am most proud of."

Carrie Austin, the 34th Ward Alderman in Chicago, also appreciates the work of Mr. Haley and his family in providing children in her Ward an outreach through the Jackie Robinson West Little League.

"Since the death of his father, Joseph Haley, Bill has truly walked in his father's footsteps," Alderman Carrie Austin said.

"He's been a beacon of light to our Jackie Robinson West children, just like his father, providing positive team interaction and promoting individual responsibility. For Bill, it's not all about baseball, it's about life and that's what he tries to instill in them, just like his father. Baseball is just a mechanism! And that's exactly what he does so well. And, we are proud of him for it."

Mr. Haley learned from one of the best, his father, Joseph, who founded the league in the spring of 1971 with one team. His goal was to provide wholesome, healthy recreation for kids through their participation in the program. Under the leadership of the Haley family, and others, Jackie Robinson West Little League has become one of the outstanding community organizations in Chicago.

"On one hand, I was shocked and surprised when I found out about the award," Mr. Haley said. "On the other hand, it feels kind of awkward because we have over 100 volunteers in our league alone who deserve recognition such as I am receiving, not to mention the volunteers worldwide who are deserving.

"Because of my dad, winning this award is really personal for me," Mr. Haley said. "He certainly deserves a large part of it. I am just happy to continue what my dad and others established, and built into a cornerstone for the neighborhood."

The league has flourished, going from that first year with one team to more than 450 kids who registered to participate in the program this summer, an enrollment figure that has increased each of the last few years. They offer baseball teams at three levels who have enjoyed regional and national success. The Jackie Robinson West Little League has sent two Senior League teams to the World Series, two Junior League teams to that World Series and a team in 1983 to the Little League Baseball World Series – coached by Joseph Haley. In all, league teams have also captured 17 Illinois state titles.

But, the 22-year employee of the Chicago Transit Authority thinks there's much more to the league than wins and losses.

"While the league's success on the field has helped create a buzz in the neighborhood and helped us attract some kids we probably would not have normally attracted, the foundation will always be to provide an environment where the kids can develop into productive adults."

In keeping with family tradition, Mr. Haley's wife of 20 years, Sharon, along with both children, Adam and Jessica, are all very involved in volunteer work for the league.

Mr. Haley will be recognized at a breakfast and an on-field ceremony during the 2010 Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. The 64th World Series will be played Aug. 20-29.

Little League International created the Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award in recognition of the vital volunteer service being performed by thousands of dedicated people in urban settings around the country. Since 2005, this award has acknowledged an adult volunteer involved with a Little League program participating in the Urban Initiative. The recipient has provided a positive Little League experience for the children and adults with a local league's metropolitan neighborhood or community.

Mr. Paster, the President of the Little League Foundation Board of Trustees, is Executive Vice President of Public Relations and Public Affairs, at WPP Group, and was Chairman of "A World of Opportunity – Little League Baseball Capital Campaign for the Future." Mrs. Paster is the Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

The Little League Urban Initiative is now operating with more than 200 leagues in nearly 85 cities in the United States. Through the 2009 Little League season, the Little League Urban Initiative has stimulated the participation of 3,901 teams, approximately 51,000 players, and has participated in nearly thirty field renovation/development projects.

Little League Baseball and Softball is the world's largest organized youth sports program, with nearly 2.6 million players and 1 million adult volunteers in every U.S. state and scores of other countries.

Past Recipients of the Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award

  • 2005-Michael Alban, Ironbound American LL, Newark, N.J.
  • 2006-Gaither and Rebecca Beard, North Richmond LL, Richmond, Va.
  • 2007-Dr. Wilford Weber, Neartown LL, Houston, Texas
  • 2008-James Wright, Yellow Jackets LL, Tampa, Fla.
  • 2009-Frank Velasquez, C.H.I.L.L., Houston, Texas