On a warm March day during MLB Spring Training in Scottsdale, Ariz., more than 2,250 miles away from Williamsport, Pa., former Longview (Wash.) Little Leaguer® and current Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black came across a Little League® Patch and could barely contain his excitement.
“I love that! It throws me back to my time in Longview and great memories,” said Mr. Black. “It’s iconic, it really is. Whoever came up with that did a great job and that lives on forever.”
The white, eight-sided keystone shape complete with a diamond field and banners depicting text of each Little League division now represents the world’s largest youth sports organization. Carl Stotz, who founded Little League in Williamsport, came up with this patch after first creating it as a logo in the late 1940s. Mr. Stotz pitched the idea to his family and decided on the keystone shape. Although it has undergone some minor updates in its lifetime, the original intent for the patch has lived on.
“I think one of the cool things about it is that it’s a keystone,” said Lance Van Auken, Little League Vice President and Executive Director of the World of Little League® Museum. “Pennsylvania is the Keystone State, but you have to understand what a keystone is. It’s the part above a door that helps to keep the house together. And to me, Little League is one of those things that helps keep a community together.”
While the Keystone State is well represented on the patch, some Little Leaguers who have gone on to the big leagues find the patch represents much more.
“It represents sportsmanship, trying your best,” said 2017 National League Manager of the Year, Arizona Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo. “It represents putting on your uniform at six o’clock in the morning on a Saturday and waiting until your parents got up so they could run you to the ballpark, so you could play in a game. And then never coming out of that uniform until your parents took you out of it to take a shower on Saturday night.”
“[The patch] brings back a lot of memories of having fun with my friends,” said 2004 Little League Baseball Northwest Region Champion and 2017 MLB All-Star, Michael Conforto. “It just feels like the beginning of the path [to the majors]. That’s kind of the seed that’s planted. You’re really young [in Little League] and you don’t really know what you want to do with your life. All my decisions after that were lined up to get to where I am now.”
The Little League patch is now a mandatory piece of every Little League uniform. Not only does wearing the patch confirm that a Little Leaguer is playing for a legitimate Little League, it also renders leagues that do not have patches as unofficial.
“I remember when you get it and you first get your jersey and you have to steam it on because to play Little League, you have to have that on there,” said three-time National League All-Star Nolan Arenado.
“When there’s no patch on a uniform, it could be any program, or it could be no program at all,” said Mr. Van Auken. “Even if it’s just the shape, that keystone shape, on a kid’s left shoulder, people recognize it as something special, part of a greater whole.”