Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Little League Baseball is the present day "If You Build It They Will Come"

A www.LittleLeague.News Image of Volunteer Stadium at the 2017 Little League World Series taken during Solar Eclipse.
Williamsport, PA - Field of Dreams is a 1989 American fantasy-drama sports film directed by Phil Alden Robinson, who also wrote the screenplay, adapting W. P. Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe. Ray Kinsella is a novice Iowa farmer who lives with his wife, Annie, and daughter, Karin. In the opening narration, he explains how he had a troubled relationship with his father, John Kinsella, who had been a devoted baseball fan. While walking through his cornfield one evening, he hears a voice whispering, "If you build it, he will come." He continues hearing this before finally seeing a vision of a baseball diamond in his field. (1)

Little League's Dugout entertains the crowd. Having fun is high on the Little League's agenda.
www.LittleLeague.News Animation
Background Information
In November of 1996, Steve Keener was elected chief executive officer of Little League. Steve Keener was exposed to the Little League program early in his life. Don Keener, Steve’s father, was a physical education instructor and basketball coach at Loyalsock High School and spent his summers as a camp counselor at the Little League Camps in the early 1960’s. Steve played Little League Baseball in the Loyalsock Little League, Williamsport, and later in nearby Woolrich, Pa.

While in college (Westminster College, New Wilmington, Pa.) he served an internship at Little League International. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Westminster before joining the staff of Little League International in 1980 as assistant director of public relations. He became director of public relations in November 1984 and was elected first vice president in November 1991.

The Little League program has come full circle as Stephen D. Keener has become the first president of Little League to have participated in the program as a player. Little League today is the largest organized youth sports program in the world with 2.7 million children on 180,000 teams in scores of countries.

Inaugural MLB Little League Classic
Photo of BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field before renovation.
www.LittleLeague.News Photo
After the game between the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves at Fort Bragg in July 2016, rumors spread that MLB was planning another similar event in Williamsport. But many locals of the area and reporters across the nation thought it was almost impossible due to the size and capacity of BB&T Ballpark, as seating for fewer than 3,000 fans seems much less than ideal for a MLB game. As the rumors were dispelled by many, the news faded. However a St. Louis newspaper column in early March stated that MLB was finalizing plans for the game..

Courtesy of MLB
On March 9, 2017, MLB officially announced the game, selecting the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals as the participants. (2)

So between MLB and Little League Baseball® and Softball, the historic game of baseball and the field of dreams have merged. From all accounts, the game Sunday evening August 20th between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals was a smash hit and those feelings were expressed by Steve Keener in an ESPN interview during a playoff game broadcast. Keener stated that more of this type of events might be coming in the future. In talking to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, Steve got the feeling that the Commissioner was sending positive vibs about more of this type activity.

Little League President and CEO Stephen Keener at the 2017 Grand Slam Parade.  "It is all about the kids!"
A www.LittleLeague.News Photo
CEO Stephen Keener Influence
Keener has been responsible for the foresight and construction of Volunteer Stadium. Volunteer Stadium construction was started in 2000 to accommodate the growth of the Little League World Series, and was completed in 2001. Its approximate capacity is 5,000, almost exclusively in the main stands, with limited lawn seating in the outfield. Volunteer Stadium is used for double-elimination pool play only. All elimination games and consolation games are played at Lamade Stadium.

World of Little League Museum documents the influence Little League has had on baseball.
A www.LittleLeague.News Photo
Also, Keener used this new facility to expand the series to 16 teams, eight International and eight United States Teams. With two fields, (Lamade Stadium is the older built in 1959) dealing with rain delays would be much easier to manage with such a large tournament field. It also gave Little League an opportunity to give more teams the fantastic World Series experience, a goal I believe that fits into their youth sports vision and influence.

In 2006, the home run distance was increased by 20 ft (6.1 m), from 205 ft (62 m) to 225 ft (69 m), to all fields; the outfield wall forms one-fourth of a true circle. Little League noticed that the old field dimensions prevented statistical data shadowing major league doubles and triples. In Little League with the shorter outfield fence, there were a disproportional number of singles and home runs and less doubles and triples. Since that change in field length, the statistics are much more related to MLB statistics.

Little League Baseball® and Softball Mission Statement Suggestion (1)
Little League has published Mission Statement guidelines for league members. They suggest the following:
  • Each league’s mission statement should explicitly state the goal of using sports to help athletes develop positive character traits and values that will aid success in the rest of their lives.

A www.LittleLeague.News Photo
Having fun, using sports to help develop positive character traits, learning about values and their role in a successful life is demonstrated through baseball. What a fabulous mission for these impressional kids around the world today. The Inaugural MLB Little League Classic game is an example of how MLB and Little League are building something very special together. They are building it and baseball is the better for it.

From the interviews I have read and video I have watched, this inaugural game was a great big win for all involved. Major League players, Little League players, coaches and fans of baseball have seen and experienced what can happen when people of all nationalities work together for a common good. It is not about us, it is about the kids. My hat is off to MLB and Little League Baseball® and Softball for all they have done to promotion a this valuable mission.

Little League, "Keep building it and they will come." MLB,"Keep building it and they will come." We wish all Little League employees, teams, volunteers and fans the best. You are giving these young boys and girls a standard to set their goals against. You are truly a most valuable yardstick!


John Green
Your Thoughts: mail@LittleLeague.news

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