Little League Alive

People have for the longest time looked for ways to keep themselves busy during their free time. Different activities work for different people but the most common future between most people is the love for games. These come in many different forms to suit different likes and tastes but games are what basically break barriers between people. Players on a field will not have time to worry about the race, color or creed of their fellow players and neither will the spectators enjoying the game worry about the same for the person seated next to them. Games make us equal and bring people together. Children have from time immemorial found their own ways of creating new games to kill their time and keep them entertained. They can just run around, throw or kick a ball or whatever it is that is closes to them and thoroughly enjoy it. It is on this note that one man sat watching his nephews play throw ball that a small idea then, turned into the worldwide phenomenon we know today as little league.

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Baseball has been played for decades and had been in existence for quite a while but was only played by adult players. People before the early 1880's had not seen any need to create a version of the game that younger players could play. In 1880 though, leagues were formed for pre-teen children in New York, but were affiliated to adult clubs and thus did not flourish (Lance & Auken, 15). The ingenuity of children cannot be ignored though because young children went on to play their own version of the game on the streets which they called "pickup" using old equipment. The bats they used were those cast off by the adult players and the balls were taped and re-taped while the catcher's equipment was not available in children sizes. In the 1920's, the American Legion formed a baseball program for teen-age boys that still exists today. This caters for older boys thus there still was a void for the pre-teen boys who had an interest in playing in organized games. Smaller programs were started here and there over time but none quite caught up beyond the locality.

In 1938, a man called Carl Stotz came up with the idea of an organized baseball league for young boys in his hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania (John,13). He had no son's of his own but was out playing with his nephews when he stumbled upon the idea after asking his nephews if they would be interested in playing in a regular team with uniforms, a new ball for every game and a bat that they could really swing, for which they replied in the affirmative with a lot of enthusiasm. Thus the idea of starting an organized program for them was born in Carl's mind. He gathered his nephews and several of the neighborhood children in the summer of 1938 and experimented with different equipment and different field dimensions during that summer and his program still did not have a name and they played several informal games but no actual games were played (John,11). The following summer Stotz felt that he was ready to establish what later became Little League Baseball.

By the summer of 1939, Carl had shared the idea with his wife Grayce and they both decided to take the previous summer's experiment a step further by enlisting the help of their brothers George and Bert Bebble and their wives, Annabelle and Eloise respectively. Carl went on to sell the idea to more parents in the community and then came up with the ideal name, Little League. Carl and his brothers George and Bert were the managers of the first three teams: Lycoming Dairy, Lundy Lumber and Jumbo Pretzel (Lance & Auken, 13). Two more people joined in and the eight in total made up the first Little League board of directors. Carl noted that they needed money to get the whole game going and as such started looking for sponsorship. After 56 rejections there was relief when a man from Lycoming Dairy decided to give $30 thus became the first sponsor. With this money, they bought the first two bats, a catcher's mitt, a pair of catcher's chin guards and four baseballs. 10 sets of uniforms were also ordered for the teams.

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The Penn Pretzel Company also came on as sponsors and John Lundy sponsored the third team which the company still does in the Williamsport area up-to-date. The sponsorship that the Little League gets both at the local league level and at the Headquarters level assists in keeping the costs vetted on the parents to the absolute minimal. On June 6, 1939, the first Little League game was played with Lundy Lumber emerging victorious defeating Lycoming Dairy, 23-8. Lycoming Dairy went on to win the final game of the series, 3-2 (Lance & Auken, 13). CBS was the first television station to televise a championship game in 1953. Little League Baseball later partnered with ABC sports, which has televised the World Series championship game every year since 1963. In 1974 Little League Baseball allowed girls to take to its fields.

The following years saw the spring of other programs that emulated the first Little League. To ensure that each league could thrive without neighboring programs poaching their players, boundaries for each league were established. From those very humble beginnings, what is very well known the world over as the Little League was established to grow and become the world's largest organized youth sports program. The program is available in all 50 U.S states and in more than 80 countries spanning over all the continents of the world (John, 5). Numbers don't lie and its therefore important to note that the number of leagues and participants have grown exponentially over the years from just 1 league with 30 baseball participants to incorporate softball in 1974 with a total of 6846 leagues and over 1.6 million total participants. As of the year 2010, there were a total of 7,123 leagues with 2,168,850 baseball participants and 344,910 softball participants, giving a total of 2,513,760 participants in both games.

It is also estimated that 35 million people have played in or volunteered for a local Little League program These are very large numbers of young children who look up to the league to give them the basic principles and ideals that they need to face the adult stage of their lives. The league offers the participants a chance to mingle and interact with each other regardless of one's color, nationality and creed thus breaking the borders that had previously existed that had led to the division of the people of the world. Young teens get to learn what the value of unity can bring forth and what people can achieve when they work together as a team (Dean 9).

This also brings out character and leadership skills of the young participants who learn in their young age how to work as a team under the guidance of a coach. Discipline is also fundamental in team play and is core in the development of a person's character into becoming a moral citizen. Integrity is also shaped both on a team and personal level and is also a very important virtue necessary in the molding of a young person into a model citizen. All this are good virtues and disciplines that the young participants learn within their teams during play.

The main objective for starting the league in the first place was to provide a wholesome program of baseball for the boys of Williamsport, in an effort to teach them the fundamental principles of sportsmanship, team work and fair play that they can use later to become good citizens in life (Dean 19).  Top of all, the league is aimed at giving the young children a chance to develop the courage to come out and showcase what they can do and gives them a platform to polish their skills on the field which is a big confidence boost for them.

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The young participants get a chance to showcase their skills which can be harnessed by bigger clubs and give the players chances to earn education scholarships when they go on to high school and even beyond thus opening more doors for the participants to grow in education. Parents also get a chance to share quality time with their children and as such develop and tighten the parent-child bond. Most of the parents today are busy in their careers which give them little time to spend with their children. Such games when held are a good platform for parents to spend time with their children whether they are cheering them when they play or just watch the games together as a family. It is a good source of educational entertainment for both the young and the adults alike.

The Little League today is incorporated as a non-profit organization whose mission is, "to promote, develop, supervise, and voluntarily assist in all lawful ways, the interest of those who will participate in Little League Baseball and Softball."  The Little League program assists youth in developing the qualities of citizenship, discipline, teamwork and physical well-being. By encouraging and instilling the virtues of character, courage and loyalty, the Little League Baseball and Softball program is designed to develop superior citizens rather than superior athletes.

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