Urban Initiative has Another Successful Jamboree Season
One of the main goals of the Little League Urban Initiative is to bring the benefits of Little League Baseball and Softball to boys and girls in urban neighborhoods by holding jamborees around the country that allow those same players the opportunity to participate in a tournament-style event.
After holding four successful state jamborees in 2010, this year the program was expanded to include seven events. By increasing the number of jamborees, the program was able to reach out to some areas that had not had the opportunity to participate in previous years, while also increasing participation.
Three of the four venues from 2010 returned to host a jamboree again in 2011 – Chicago, Houston and Atlanta – along with new opportunities for leagues in the Tampa, Fla., Stockton, Calif., Richmond, Va., and Los Angeles areas.
The increased number of jamborees also meant more children getting the chance to participate. In 2010, 52 teams and nearly 700 players took part in the four jamborees. This year, those numbers increased to 82 teams and 1,118 players.
“One of the greatest things that I witnessed this year was Little League volunteerism at its absolute best,” Demiko Ervin, Director of the Little League Urban Initiative, said. “The local leagues that hosted these events did a great job and made the visiting leagues feel welcome.
“We had Little League volunteers from across each of the regions who helped make each event memorable for the participants,” Mr. Ervin said. “I think that Little League volunteers sent a strong message this year, and that message is they are in full support of the Urban Initiative Program and all Urban Initiative events in their cities, states, and regions.”
The benefits of the jamborees for the players, coaches and league officials are many. For Mary McCoy, who has been involved with Little League for 42 years, the opportunity for the players from her league to participate in a tournament-style event was at the top of her list.
“The opportunity to have our regular-season teams participate in a tournament was one of the main reasons we wanted to take part in the jamboree,” Ms. McCoy, who is President of Phoebus Little League in Hampton, Va., said. “It is the first time many of our players have taken part in a tournament. The children thoroughly enjoyed the jamboree and we will be a part of any future jamborees in the area.”
Ms. McCoy, whose league participated in the Mid-Atlantic Jamboree in Richmond, said many of the parents of the players made the trip to the jamboree and that for many of the kids, making the trip was part of what made the experience so enjoyable.
The jamborees are three-day events, usually starting on a Friday night and continuing through Sunday afternoon.
Ray Bernal, President of San Diego American Little League, and a participant in the Southern California Jamboree, said the benefits for him and the players and coaches in his league were numerous.
“Many of our children had never traveled out of the San Diego area, so the chance to go out of town, especially to Los Angeles, was something they were looking forward to,” Bernal said. “It gave them a chance to see what else is out there. They are still talking about the opportunity to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers game.
“For me, it was a great opportunity to meet people from other leagues and get a chance to compare notes on how they are conducting their leagues,” Bernal said. “I have a few ideas after talking with people from other leagues that we will put in place for next year. We would absolutely participate in another jamboree.”
Five of this year’s seven jamborees, were for Major Division (9-12-year-olds) baseball teams. This year a jamboree for Junior League (13-14-year-olds) baseball players was held in Tampa, and the Northern California Jamboree in Stockton, was for Major Division (9-12-year-olds) softball players, the first Urban Initiative softball jamboree that has been held.
Playing games was not the only thing jamboree participants enjoyed.
As part of the jamboree, at several venues, the Little League teams were invited to attend a Major League Baseball game on Saturday night. In addition, U.S. Olympian Crystl Bustos was a special guest at the jamboree in Stockton and 11-year Major League Baseball veteran Mark Whiten was a guest at the jamboree in Tampa. Dick’s Sporting Goods, a Little League International Corporate sponsor, also added to the jamboree experience by providing several items for each player at all seven venues.
For the organizers, putting together a jamboree takes several people and quite a bit of planning. But, when they see the enjoyment it brings to the participants, it makes everything that was put into the preparation worth it.
“I think the best thing about the jamborees is that it brings everyone together,” Fred Lorentsen, one of the organizers of the Florida State Jamboree and a District Administrator in that area, said. “It takes each community and all our volunteers coming together to host a successful jamboree. I think we accomplished that, and the feedback we have received from the participating teams has been nothing but positive. We are looking forward to next year.”
Dee Dee Martinez, who helped make the Northern California Jamboree a success in its first year, echoed many of the same thoughts as Mr. Lorentsen.
“We were thrilled to host one of the Urban Initiative Jamborees this year, and hosting the first softball jamboree made it even more special,” said Ms. Martinez, the Little League District Administrator in the Stockton area. “We feel like things have come full circle. The field used for the jamboree was one that was renovated with funds from Urban Initiative program and then being able to host a jamboree there. We are hoping to do it again next year.”
The state jamborees have taken the place of the annual Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree hosted by Little League International each Memorial Day weekend. During the six years (2004-09) 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.
Two of the 16 teams in the Florida State Jamboree look for the umpires call on a play at third base. The Florida State Jamboree was the first held for Junior League players.
The Little League Urban Initiative is now operating with more than 200 leagues in nearly 85 cities in the United States. The Urban Initiative also has participated in nearly 30 field renovation/development projects, including its most recent project in Richmond, Va.
For more information on Little League’s Urban Initiative, contact Mr. Ervin at: dervin@LittleLeague.org; or (570) 326-1921. More information on the Little League Urban Initiative is also available on the Little League web site at: www.LittleLeague.org; or on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/LittleLeagueUrbanInitiative.