Earlier this spring, more than 25 local Little League programs received direct support through the Little League Grow the Game Grant Program, which assists local Little League programs who are working to enhance Little League opportunities in their community.
“Since its launch in 2015, the Little League Grow the Game Grant Program has been able to provide local Little League programs with the opportunity to offer more accessibility, better equipment and resources, and other assistance they may not have ever had before,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “We are thrilled to have been able to help out so many leagues this past spring and encourage all of our local leagues in need to apply for this great opportunity.”
Grants within this program are available for general league enhancement, enhancement/development of the Little League Challenger Division® program, enhancement/development of the Little League Softball® program, and to leagues enrolled in the Little League Urban Initiative. To date, Little League International has awarded 237 grants totaling more than $4 million since the Grow the Game Grant Program was established in 2015.
Below you will find two examples of those local leagues who recently got to experience the benefit of the Little League Grow the Game Grant this past spring.
Bear Country Little League (Chittenango, N.Y.)
After a devastating storm in 2018, Bear Country Little League (BCLL) was left without any batting cages. The small, close knit league had about 250 children between the baseball and softball programs and the loss of the cages made it very difficult for players to get in additional batting practice, especially with the fields being in use during the season.
An important steeple in the Chittenango community, BCLL is one of the main activities parents sign their children up for in the spring and summer. Both Kevin Valente, BCLL League President, and Tiffany Jones, BCLL Treasurer, have children who play for the league and are dedicated to the its growth because of how much they care for all the children.
“You like to see programs grow for the kids, which is why we’re both coaches, Board members, and league officers,” said Mrs. Jones. “It’s just because we care so deeply for our kids, their friends, and all the other kids that we meet.”
Trips to other fields during all-star season inspired Mrs. Jones and Mr. Valente to start looking into the costs of more permanent cages. That’s when Mrs. Jones came across the Little League Grow the Game Grant program. She applied on behalf of their league but didn’t expect anything to come out of it. To their surprise, the league received the grant and was able to construct three new batting cages, one for each field in their complex, specifically dedicating one cage to their softball program as well.
“We would not be where we are at without the core group of volunteers that are there day in, day out, doing things like tarping the fields in the dark to make sure we can play the next day, said Mr. Valente. “Without that core group of our board members and a great group of volunteers, we would not be as successful as we are.”
DeMotte (Ind.) Little League
Since its establishment, DeMotte Little League (DLL) has created a rich history not only in its community, but throughout the entire state of Indiana. Their baseball park, called the Field of Dreams, is a nine-field complex in the middle of a town park, making the league a central part of the community since the fields were put into place in 1992.
“We’ve been in the community so long that it’s really become a generational program.” said Sarah Beauchamp, communications manager for the league. “It’s something that kids are experiencing today that parents have also experienced in the same town decades ago. I think it brings families together in a really unique way.”
Although the program has been a longstanding steeple in the community, the fields haven’t been upgraded since their installation 27 years ago. When Dan Beauchamp, Sarah’s husband, was elected as League President, he knew they had to do something to make a change.
“We had a new Board with new energy, and a new focus,” said Mr. Beauchamp. “We wanted to make the experience of playing for our league better for everyone.”
After nearly three decades of use, the fields at Field of Dreams park had seen significant deterioration and they knew they had a lot of work to do if they wanted to turn the league around, so the league’s Board of Directors decided to apply for the Grow the Game Grant to help ignite the community to help out.
“Involvement from the community is like a snowball,” said Mr. Beauchamp. “We got the ball rolling, and the more improvements that we make, the bigger the snowball is and subsequently, the faster the progress we’re making with community involvement.”
Since receiving the grant, DLL has been able to build a new scoreboard, fix the fields, build dugouts at the fields that did not previously have them, and renovate dugouts that were already there.
“Little League International is really a partner for our long-term accomplishments and we’re not alone,” said Mrs. Beauchamp. “There are people out there outside our community who care about our success and that we have support in our area and beyond.
For more information about the Little League Grow the Game Grant Program, including how your league can apply for it, visit LittleLeague.org/GrowTheGame.