I would like to welcome everyone to our beautiful area, nestled in the center of Penn's Woods. We are proud to be the birthplace and home of Little League Baseball. I hope you enjoy your visit and some great baseball action at Lamade and Volunteer stadiums.
It is a special year in the history of Little League. The 75th anniversary since Carl Stotz began what has become the largest youth sports organization in the world. Mr. Stotz's idea to provide America's pastime for 11 and 12-year-old boys was fueled by his love of his nephews and wanting to provide fields for them to play on and a league for them to play in. His vision of a diamond scaled down to the young ball players size and making little leaguers feel like big leaguers was remarkable.
Although young people today have gotten bigger and faster and equipment has improved drastically, his original sized field has been unchanged for the most part. This helps to make those Little League days most special and some of the most memorable in a player’s baseball life.
The first hat and uniform, the first hit, the first home run, all are memories that happened during those Little League days. I'm sure as many are reading this those visions are replaying vividly in your mind, that moment frozen in time like it happened yesterday.
Mr. Stotz was big on nice uniforms and on new game balls and this all began with him. Family and friends bonding with Little League Baseball also began with Mr. Stotz’s need for coaches, volunteers and financial support. Who better to ask for help than family and friends? They supported him because of the man he was and his commitment to the youth of that day and baseball. What has grown out of that is a special time shared between families, especially fathers, sons and grandfathers.
That short and fleeting time of life on that special Little League diamond where dad coaches and teaches what his dad passed down to him. You watch as your son grows from a little boy to a seasoned 12-year-old, all in the blink of an eye. The grandfather watches from center field with a tear and a smile as his grandson hits a home run. This all to be passed on to the next generation. Some of my greatest memories of my father are as his center fielder while he was managing my team and then as I was managing his grandsons, Jimmy and Hunter. And yes, Mr. Webb called me after every game I managed with his advice. Boy, do I miss those calls.
The greatest investment in young people is time. Nothing better epitomizes this than the success of Little League. The lessons learned at this time of your life are far more important than balls and strikes. Mr. Stotz and all that have followed him have known courage, commitment and loyalty will shape the future.
Little Leaguers have been President of United States and firefighters responding to the call on 9/11. They are doctors, teachers, and elected officials. They own the local hardware store or work at the local factory. They are men and women from every walk of life that in some way have been touched by Carl Stotz's idea.
This is his true legacy. To create something out of love, played on a grass field with a diamond that has this kind of outreach is truly remarkable. Those who play become the future coaches, board members, volunteers and sponsors of this great game. They take great pride in their local league and want to continue that which has been a part of their lives.
The game Carl Stotz founded is in great hands with current President and CEO Steven Keener. With tough issues like "hot" bats and sore arms, Mr. Keener has continued in the Little League tradition of safety first. He has much more on his plate in today's world with the security and travel issues. He and his staff continue to make the Little League World Series the greatest event in youth sports. Mr. Keener has provided the right mix of business sense, leadership and love of Little League that I believe Mr. Stotz would be honored by. A tip of the cap to the board of directors and all the folks on "the hill" that make it such a special place.
As I watch Little League Baseball today it's truly a game for its current generation. The style of the uniforms, the ball caps which are sharp by any standard, the players are fast and athletic with a little swag. There is more new and better equipment than ever and the players wear it, use it and look good doing so.
Little League seems to get younger every year. I hope that's not because I'm getting older. I would have loved to have the gear and opportunity Little Leaguers have today. As I look back at photos from the different decades it amazes me how Little League has evolved and changed with the youth of that time.
The promise of so many volunteers worldwide committed to continued success, Mr. Keener and those before him making sure Little League is about, and stays about, those who are young. There is no doubt Carl Stotz's vision of Little League baseball is alive and well.
Happy 75th anniversary to Little League Baseball and thank you to Mr. Carl Stotz of yesteryear, Mr. Steven Keener of today and all who have made the dream of every young ballplayer to reach the hallowed ground of Lamade Stadium.
Hope your Little League World Series visit is a great one!
Safe travels home and God bless.