Little League® Baseball and Softball today announced a $4 million plan to help local Little League programs grow the game in their communities by providing financial assistance to these programs to ensure that all children have the opportunity to have a meaningful Little League experience.
The new initiative, called Grow the Game, is the result of Little League’s new television contract, and all the funds will be spent on programs for kids, including grants to fix up fields; support for urban programs to attract minorities to baseball and softball; and education programs to train volunteers, including coaches and umpires.
In addition, to make Little League even more affordable for those who participate, the charter fee paid by all 6,500 leagues throughout the United States will be reduced from $16 to $10 per team. This continues the organization’s commitment to make Little League accessible and affordable for all children – in 2007, the affiliation fee was reduced from $18 to $16.
The cornerstone initiative is the new Little League Grow the Game grant program. With different grants earmarked for general local league improvement and to help leagues expand or establish Little League Softball®, Little League Challenger Division®, and Little League Urban Initiative programs, Little League is allocating more than $1.8 million for 7,000 local Little League programs in more than 80 countries to use to grow the game. This includes a $500,000 Disaster Relief Fund, which will be dedicated to assisting local leagues that have been impacted by floods, tornados, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.
The Little League International Board of Directors approved the Grow the Game initiatives at their spring meeting in Washington, D.C. Now in the first year of its new television agreement with ESPN, Little League is able to give back these revenues to benefit local Little League programs and the more than 1 million volunteers who support them.
“Every summer, millions of people around the world enjoy watching Little League Baseball and Softball on television,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “As a result, we are able to make an even stronger investment to grow the game and provide financial support into local programs, so even more children can have fun on Little League fields in their community. For more than 75 years, Little League has provided a healthy, affordable and fun experience for millions of children, and we’re pleased to continue this long tradition of putting children first.”
“Little League has a long history of using its financial resources to support local league operations and support our volunteers,” said Davie Jane Gilmour, Ph.D., Little League Board of Directors Chairman. “As the world’s largest and most respected youth sports organization, we feel it is our responsibility to ensure that every local Little League program can benefit from the partnerships that help Little League International grow the game.”
In addition to Little League’s Grow the Game financial initiatives, the organization is working closely with Major League Baseball on its efforts to stimulate more youth participation.
“Major League Baseball and Little League Baseball have common goals for the game we share, particularly the expansion of opportunities for kids to play and the improvement of infrastructure in areas of need,” said Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. “We are honored to have Little League Baseball as a partner as we pursue these paramount objectives, and I applaud Little League for today’s substantial steps to continue our game’s growth.”
In August 2013, Little League International agreed to an eight-year, multi-platform rights extension, effective 2015 through 2022, with ESPN. ESPN and ABC have been Little League’s partner for 50 years, first airing the Little League World Series in 1963.