Don’t Let This Happen: Connecting with Strangers Online

LLU Connecting with Strangers

At Little League® International and in our Region Offices, calls and emails come in all year long about situations that are happening at our local leagues. Many of these calls and emails inform us of positive initiatives spearheaded by our millions of volunteers, however, there are also negative situations. The following situation from our “Don’t Let This Happen” series details a real-world scenario, how it has impacted a league, and how you might learn from it.

The names have been changed in the following scenario, but the situation is real.

The Situation

A local league that had recently played in a Little League World Series tournament is contacted through one of the league’s social media pages by someone unknown to the league. In the message, received by the league’s Information Officer, an individual claiming to be a father writes that he has a son with a terminal illness and that the boy is a huge fan of the Little League World Series. The father requested that the players and the league send him pictures and items for his son to “cheer him up.” The league passed along the story to families of the World Series team. The father’s inquiry asked that each team member send an individual package containing specific items, including a picture of the World Series player wearing the team’s World Series jersey. A mother of one of the players was disturbed by the request and the fact that the father provided no physical mailing address (just an international post office box number). She did an internet search on the individual’s name and discovered that he had been convicted of stalking and other crimes involving children in a foreign country.

The Outcome

The player’s mother brought her discovery to the attention of the other team parents as well as league officials. The League President contacted the District Administrator, who made the Region Director aware. After notifying Little League International, further investigation by the Region Director revealed that this person had no formal association with the Little League program, and an extensive history of making similar requests to families of other Little League World Series teams. Immediately after the pattern was established, Little League International contacted families and coaches of recent Little League World Series teams, the leadership of the respective leagues, their district staff, and the region offices, to make each aware of the situation and its findings, as well as appropriate authorities.

The Solution

Throughout the regular season and annual Little League International Tournament, participants are reminded of the importance of being cautious as to who they and their families are interacting with, especially on social and digital media. Little League reminds everyone that it is imperative to closely monitor this activity, and strongly urges everyone to be aware of who they are communicating with through social and digital media and/or email. Should such a situation occur, we emphatically encourage you to notify local authorities.

Out of an abundance of caution, and to help deter cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and other forms of inappropriate online activity and behavior, Little League implores players, parents, legal guardians, team, league, and district officials to be responsible when using social media. Be sure to review and utilize Little League University resources to help protect your Little Leaguers.