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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2011 > May-August > Kerry Cobb Selected as 2011 Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year

Kerry Cobb Selected as 2011 Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year

Kerry Cobb Selected as 2011 Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year


Kerry Cobb knew he faced an uphill battle when he saw a need for a youth baseball program in Memphis, Tenn. After four years of the same struggles any fledgling organization faces in trying to establish themselves, the Memphis Little League is flourishing under Mr. Cobb and his group of volunteers.

For his tireless work in establishing the league, and his vision of giving the children of Memphis the opportunity to participate in another sport, Mr. Cobb has been selected as the recipient of the 2011 Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year.

Little League Baseball and Softball created the Little League Howard and Gail Paster 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.

“Kerry Cobb has built the Memphis Little League from the ground up in an area where baseball does not have a strong reputation,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “His commitment to the program and the children of Memphis has raised the awareness of baseball to the point where he has a league with several hundred participants. We are proud to have Kerry and the Memphis Little League as part of our Urban Initiative.”

A Little League graduate who played on teams in all four divisions of play in the Jackson (Tenn.) Little League, Mr. Cobb knew if he could find a niche for the sport in a football/basketball rich area, it would prove beneficial for the children.

“The resources provided to our league through Little League’s Urban Initiative have been what has allowed us to maintain the league,” Mr. Cobb said. “Memphis Little League would not be where it is today, if the Urban Initiative did not exist.

“Little League played a major role in my life as a child, and I wanted to bring those same opportunities to the children here in Memphis,” Mr. Cobb said. “Little League is a proven method of teaching children lessons they can use the rest of their life.”

A two-year letterwinner and captain of the University of Memphis football team in 1996, Mr. Cobb got the push he needed to create a league after seeing an interview during the 2007 Major League Baseball Civil Rights Game played in Memphis. Later that year, the league submitted its paperwork to charter with Little League, and in 2008 they began local league play.

“Gaining the respect of the parents was the first challenge when we started the league,” Mr. Cobb, who runs a screen printing and embroidery business in Memphis, said. “In Memphis, baseball is not on the radar of many parents due to the rich history of football and basketball in the city.

“But, we have been able to change the culture here, and I have learned the children want to play baseball.  We now have to work on modifying the views of the community and its officials about the positives of Little League Baseball.”

Despite “going against the current” by starting a youth baseball organization, the Memphis Little League has been able to consistently field approximately 20 teams and introduce the game of baseball to more than 300 children each summer in its first four years.

This year, for the first time, teams from Memphis Little League, in three divisions of Little League play, advanced to the championship game of the district tournament. The league has also participated in the Urban Initiative Jamboree, which are held each summer bringing several Urban Initiative leagues together in one place to experience tournament play, but also network ideas.

“Now that we have been playing for a few years, the message is getting out about the benefits for the participating children,” Mr. Cobb said. “I think we could double our numbers, if we can find enough volunteers to coach the various teams.  If we are going to grow the league, we are going to have to find more coaches.”

In the nomination letter submitted by Dr. Latorya Hicks, a Memphis Little League board member who is a professor at the American College of Education, she said, “Kerry Cobb is making a difference in the lives of inner city youth in Memphis. He willingly dedicates his time, gifts, talents, guidance, support and knowledge of the game of baseball with the youth in our league. It is his extraordinary poise and style in putting his very best into everything he does that draws the very best to our league.”

While presently using a field at a local church, the league is looking for a new “home” and the funds to make that a reality. Part of the money for that new “home” will come from a $20,000 pledge from long-time Little League sponsor, Honda, and Bank of America has added a $30,000 pledge.

“Not having a facility that will allow us to practice and play on a consistent basis is another challenge we need to overcome in order to continue to make the league better,” Mr. Cobb said.

Despite the obstacles that still lay ahead, Mr. Cobb knows things are moving in a positive direction for his league.

“I was extremely excited to hear the news of earning the award,” Mr. Cobb said. “I know there are many worthy candidates doing the same thing I am doing. Being the recipient of the award, I know that Memphis Little League is moving in the right direction.”

The Little League Urban Initiative is now operating with more than 200 leagues in more than 85 cities in the United States. The Little League Urban Initiative has stimulated the participation more than 3,900 teams, approximately 51,000 players, while participating in thirty field renovation/development projects.

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.

Mr. Cobb will be recognized at a breakfast and an on-field ceremony during the 2011 Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. The 65th World Series will be played Aug. 18-28.