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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2010 > May - August > Inaugural Little League Urban Initiative State Jamborees Score Big with Players, Coaches, Local Volunteers

Inaugural Little League Urban Initiative State Jamborees Score Big with Players, Coaches, Local Volunteers

Inaugural Little League Urban Initiative State Jamborees Score Big with Players, Coaches, Local Volunteers

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For more than a decade, the Little League Urban Initiative has cultivated Little Leagues in metropolitan and urban neighborhoods throughout the United States to create opportunity for children to benefit from playing Little League. The Little League Urban Initiative State Jamborees are the latest evolution of this mission, and with each of the four events now complete the consensus from organizers is … Let’s do it again next year!

The most recent of the state jamborees were held in Newark, N.J., and in Chicago, Ill. In an effort to give more children and chartered Little Leagues the opportunity to participate in a tournament setting, the Little League Urban Initiative also hosted Jamborees in Atlanta, Ga., and Houston.

The New Jersey State Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree welcomed 15 teams to Newark for the weekend-long event. The games were hosted by the Newark Little League Committee (NLLC) members North Ward Center Little League, Ironbound Little League, Jackie Robinson South Ward Little League, Roberto Clemente Little League, and North Newark Little League. The Illinois State Jamboree, played at Jackie Robinson West Little League, had eight teams representing Illinois and Indiana.

Cramer Hill Little League (Camden, N.J.) won the New Jersey Jamboree, 3-2, over North Ward Center Little League (Newark, N.J.); and Garfield Park Little League (Chicago) defeated Horner Park North-West Little League (Chicago), 4-3, at the Chicago Jamboree.

“Leagues came to the Jamborees with a wide variety of expectations, but the enthusiasm was equally exciting regardless of where the teams came from or how well they played,” Demiko Ervin, Director of the Little League Urban Initiative, said. “I attended each Jamboree and saw players and coaches enjoying the chance to play other Urban Initiative leagues. The other primary component of this type of event is the networking opportunities, which leagues took full advantage of.”  

The first Little League Urban Initiative State Jamboree was hosted by Belvedere Little League in Decatur, Ga., over Memorial Day weekend. Urban Initiative leagues from the state of Georgia and South Carolina visited the Atlanta suburb for the event held at Shoal Creek Park.

Marietta's Milford Little League defeated SALLY Little League from Columbus, 1-0, in the championship game of the 12-team event, which included Little League Urban Initiative teams from throughout the state of Georgia and one team from South Carolina.

“The Jamboree was very well received,” Carolyn Taggart, a volunteer with Belvedere Little League for more than 30 years and the event’s director, said. “We all had a wonderful time and received a lot of compliments. The children were very excited because most of them had never played a tournament-type game and never played in a park outside of their own park.”

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Earlier this month, children in Texas took part in the second of the Little League Urban Initiative State-wide Jamborees, hosted by the Council of Houston Inner-city Little Leagues (CHILL).

“The inaugural Texas State Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree gathered many people from across the state and every player and parent was having a blast participating in this event,” Frank Velasquez, the 2009 Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award Recipient and event coordinator, said. “Coaches and parents declared that the games were a welcomed opportunity to meet and play against other Texas Little Leagues. They were pleased that the event was well organized, games were conducted in a good sportsmanship manner, made many new friends on the field, and are looking forward to participating in the event again.”

Co-champions were crowned at the conclusion of the Texas Jamboree. Taking top honors were Capitol Park Little League (San Antonio) and Neartown Little League (Houston).

The Little League Urban Initiative was created to provide opportunities for communities in metropolitan areas to reap the benefits of having Little League in their neighborhoods. This year, that mission is being enhanced by local Urban Initiative leagues hosting games between fellow Urban Initiative leagues.

“I am hoping other communities will choose to play Little League,” Mrs. Taggert said. “The kids had a ball and parents that were here at the Jamboree had a good time. When I talked to several of the managers, they said they had a great time because for many it was their first tournament experience too.”

For several years, the Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree welcomed Little League teams chartered through the Little League Urban Initiative to Little League International in South Williamsport, Pa., has been re-invented this year to provide local Urban Initiative leagues with an opportunity to host a competitive, state-wide Jamboree, exclusive to leagues participating in the Urban Initiative program.

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The Jamborees in Chicago and Newark featured a baseball skills clinic for the participating players conducted by The Baseball Factory.

“Beginning in 2004, local leagues participating in the Little League Urban Initiative were invited to the annual Jamboree held on the Little League International complex,” Mr. Ervin said.  “Those events were successful and beneficial for the leagues involved.  The primary goals of taking the Jamboree to the state level are to increase the number of children from Urban Initiative Little Leagues that get to participate in a ‘tournament style’ event, and to better serve Urban Initiative leagues on a state-wide basis by giving local league members, coaches and players a greater chance to network and share ideas.”

The Little League Urban Initiative was established in 1999 to provide opportunities for communities in metropolitan areas to reap the benefits of having Little League in their neighborhoods.

The state-based jamborees in the four locations this summer were sponsored by the Torii Hunter Project.  The all-star outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim founded the organization as part of a comprehensive, long-term effort to impact children in need in various parts of the United States.  Now in his 14th Major League season, Mr. Hunter’s project has four areas of focus related to children: sports, community, education, and wellness.

“The motivation behind extending the Jamboree concept to the state level was a matter of opportunity,” Mr. Ervin said. “Bringing teams to South Williamsport, giving them a chance to play on the World Series fields, and exposing them to Little League’s history and origin are all great, but we want to take the next step.  The next step is recognizing those leagues that have embraced the Urban Initiative mission and allow them to show what a local league can do with the proper mix of resources, support and community involvement.”

The state jamborees took the place of the annual Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree that Little League International hosted Memorial Day weekend.  During the six years the Jamboree was played at the Little League International complex in South Williamsport, Pa., teams from 66 different Urban Initiative leagues and more than 800 players participated.

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 and approximately 51,000 players. The Urban Initiative has also participated in nearly thirty field renovation/development projects, including a project unveiled last month in Richmond, Va.

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The inaugural Illinois State Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree had eight teams participate, representing Illinois and Indiana. Taking top honors was Garfield Park Little League (Chicago), which defeated Horner Park North-West Little League (Chicago), 4-3. The event was played June 12-13 and hosted by Jackie Robinson West Little League in Chicago.