Little League® is all about having a good time on the field with your friends, and, now Major League Baseball is joining in on the fun with its PLAY BALL initiative.
“Play Ball Weekend is a unified demonstration of the national pastime’s commitment to engaging youth in all facets of our game," said Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, in a statement. “This special program is an elevated step of the Play Ball initiative, which has been a tremendous vehicle to strengthen the ties with young people all across the United States and Canada. We thank our clubs for the outstanding experiences they will provide throughout Play Ball Weekend.”
On Sunday, May 15, Little League® International, as part of MLB’s inaugural “PLAY BALL Weekend,” greeted hundreds of children and their families to its complex in South Williamsport, Pa., for a free event that celebrated playing ball on the Little League Baseball® World Series stadium fields.
“Major League Baseball's Play Ball initiative is about inspiring everyone to pick up a ball and play,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “What better place to enjoy fun activities, such as backyard baseball and softball games and playing catch, then on the fields where the Little League Baseball World Series is played each August.”
PLAY BALL is league-wide effort by Major League Baseball to engage young fans and support participation in baseball and softball. PLAY BALL events were hosted in MLB parks around the league with the goal being to encourage community outreach, which makes the game accessible, promotes healthy lifestyles and shows how baseball and softball can be played in a fun environment.
“In the digital age we live in, getting kids involved in anything is so important,” said Shaddon Rice, a local Little League parent and league volunteer from Selinsgove, Pa., who had four children participate. “When we found out about the Play Ball Weekend, I didn’t know what to expect, but being here, and seeing all that the kids got to do was empowering and awesome. My kids had a lot fun and enjoyed a great experience.”
Children ages 7 to 14 participated in special skill-developing activities on Howard J. Lamade and Volunteer Stadiums, organized by Baseball Factory, the Official Player Development Partner of Little League Baseball and Softball, and Little League International staff. A series of other baseball and softball-related games and fun activities were available for children of all ages, including the EASTON Hit Lab.
“I really like baseball, and playing games with my friends,” said Conner Shoemaker, 7, a Warrior Run Little Leaguer from Watsontown, Pa. “Today, my favorite thing to do was running the bases.”
“This is Conner’s first season playing Little League and he loves it,” said Rebecca Hill, Conner’s mother. “For Little League to give kids the chance to play on the fields where the World Series is played has been a great experience that we both will remember for a long time.”
Little Leaguers celebrated PLAY BALL Weekend across the nation with special events at many MLB Clubs. This included Manhattan Beach (Calif.) Little League appearing on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight and Sunday Night Baseball at the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals game, kicking of the second year of an initiative with Little League, MLB, and ESPN to bring Little League teams to MLB Clubhouses.
Launched in 2015, Little League International is a proud supporter of the PLAY BALL initiative.