Reflecting on 2020 is a bit like looking into a broken mirror.
Thinking back to the end of 2019, we were embarking on one of the most exciting moments in the history of the Little League® program. We had just announced the expansion of the Little League Baseball and Softball World Series. We launched a strategic plan to evolve our program to better serve the ever-changing communities and families that are the heart of Little League. We had great momentum with celebrating female involvement through our Girls with Game program.
At the beginning of 2020, we convened our Regional Roundtable events, visiting with District Administrators and volunteers to seek their input on rules and regulations.
Then, the world changed, and so did Little League, from the International level in Williamsport to our 6,500 local leagues in more than 80 countries.
The hope and energy we all felt a year ago shifted to concern and uncertainty, seemingly overnight in mid-March.
In the time since then, we have faced difficult decisions and situations in every facet of our lives. Yes, the announcement of the cancellation of the Regional and World Series Tournaments was one of those disappointing moments. However, that pales in comparison to the health, financial, schooling, family, and so many other challenges that our Little League families continue to face throughout this pandemic.
One of the life lessons that you learn on the diamond is how to overcome adversity. As we have confronted unprecedented adversity, I, along with all my fellow members of the Little League International Board of Directors, continue to be impressed by and proud of how our Little League family has embraced these challenges.
Where it has been safe and possible, countless children were able to return to the Little League fields this year – playing throughout summer months, having tournaments, and enjoying time with new and old friends. The new Little League Sandlot Fun Days program was launched with hundreds of leagues holding these fun, player-led games where all kids can come together. We launched a new look, logo, and mission statement, rallying around One Team. One Little League., reminding us all that all are welcome in our program, and that there is no place for hate in Little League.
Through this all, we have learned more about ourselves and our organization than we ever imagined. Little League is a way of life and an important element of thousands of communities. Having that delayed or canceled has been difficult, yet we know as we work to bring our communities together, Little League can continue to be a beacon of positivity for children and families around the world. One of the ways we encouraged that positivity was through the Little League Pep Talks from some of our program’s best friends, like Todd Frazier, Jennie Finch, Curtis Granderson, and Karl Ravech, sharing words of encouragement to our Little Leaguers®. We have leaned into digital and video efforts to engage with our volunteers and families. We have relived some great Little League games and moments through our Facebook page and other social media channels. We have heard inspirational stories of member of our Little League family doing impressive things on the front lines to help others.
“Together we can come out stronger!” #LLPepTalk
— Little League (@LittleLeague) April 2, 2020
The reflection on 2020 is a fractured one, with, yes, a few broken spots, but far more bright spots. Indeed, it is through those bright spots that we can focus to grow and improve the Little League program for the years ahead.
On behalf of the Little League International Board of Directors and Staff, we thank you for being with us throughout this journey, and we look forward to forging our bright future together, on the field and off.
Stay healthy and well.
Hugh E. Tanner
Little League International Board of Directors Chairman