- September 16, 2020
Between 2001 and 2008, 20 t-ball games involving youngsters from all over America, including several teams from military installations, and from the Challenger Division of Little League Baseball, were held on the South Lawn of the White House under the auspices of President George W. Bush and Little League Baseball International Inc. These games celebrated
Between 2001 and 2008, 20 t-ball games involving youngsters from all over America, including several teams from military installations, and from the Challenger Division of Little League Baseball, were held on the South Lawn of the White House under the auspices of President George W. Bush and Little League Baseball International Inc. These games celebrated the spirit of our National Pastime in a historic setting. In a nod to the spirit of those games, youngsters and coaches from the Montoursville Little League were invited to have a game of catch with current White House occupant, President Donald J. Trump, and New York Hall of Fame relief pitcher, Mariano Rivera.
This special event came together at a dizzying pace. According to Scott Metzger, President of Montoursville Little League and a Lycoming County Commissioner, he was in his office on Wednesday, July 21, when he received a phone call from Little League CEO and President Steve Keener. He had no idea at first what Keener was calling him about. Keener advised him that the White House had reached out to Little League International, inquiring about having a group of Little Leaguers come down to the White House the next day. The kids would play catch on the White House’s south lawn and meet President Trump and Hall of Fame pitcher Mariano Rivera. It was the kickoff to the Major Little Baseball season with the first game in the Nation’s capital between the Yankees and Nationals. Metzger jumped at the chance and over the course of the next few hours exchanged phone calls and emails with the White House Staff making this dream become a reality.
He contacted numerous coaches and was able to have the limit of 13 members and five coaches on the way to the White House the next morning. There was background information that the White House needed on the entourage that would be attending for clearances.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for the players and coaches. We were blessed to have that opportunity, and we would like to thank Little League International for reaching out to us,” stated Metzger. “The group of players consisted of representatives from four teams.”
Ample COVID-19 precautions were taken by White House officials, according to Metzger. Upon arrival at the White House, the team was escorted immediately to have COVID-19 tests done. They were escorted to a Peace Treaty Room that few people have the opportunity to visit while they waited for their results. During this time, one of the players, Chase Jones, entertained White House staffers with his impersonations of President Trump.
The team was informed that all the team tested negative for COVID, and proceeded to the south lawn of the White House. They played catch for approximately half an hour. Once the President and Mariano came outside, Jordan Cohick handed them both gloves to play catch. “Jordan was pretty excited, to say the least,” Metzger said. The players played catch with one another while the President threw and caught with Rivera. “The President has a good arm and caught everything Mariano threw at him,” Metzger added.
Afterward, President Trump walked around and talked to all the players wanting to know what positions they play and more about them. Rivera was also talking with the kids and showed them how to throw his ‘cutter.’ “President Trump was relaxed, smiling, and enjoying himself with our youth. He talked about how great the game of baseball is and how Mariano was the greatest reliever,” Metzger continued. “Once the President and Rivera learned where the players were from Mariano had a smile from ear to ear and said, “Tell Moose I said ‘hello,’” referring to Hall of Famer and former teammate, Montoursville native Mike Mussina. President Trump recalled his visit to the area last spring to give a rally. He noted how it was a beautiful area. The Little Leaguers and coaches all received special presidential masks and pins from the Secret Service.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to meet the President and a Hall of Famer. I am so happy for the kids,” Craig Weaver Jr., one of the coaches, said.
Bruce Jones, coach, shared, “Seeing the pure joy, excitement and nervous energy on the faces of our players from the moment we entered the White House Complex until the moment President Trump and Mariano walked out to meet the kids. As a father and coach, it doesn’t get any better than that.” Chase Jones said the best part was playing catch on the White House lawn while holding a conversation with President Trump and Mariano. “President Trump was really nice and knew a lot about baseball. Mariano showed us how to throw his cutter. How cool is that? It was the greatest day of my life.”
On the ride home, Metzger summed up how unique of a moment they experienced. “I told the kids to think about this. There are almost three million Little Leaguers in the world. You are one of 13 kids that got to play catch on the south lawn of the White House with the President and a Major League Hall of Famer. How awesome is that?” To think that our kids from our little town had this opportunity is very humbling. There are thousands of volunteers and coaches in the world that give their time and energy into this great program. We hope we did a good job representing them all. It was an honor.”
On the Cover: Row 1 Kneeling L-R Cruz Weaver and Jordy Houseknecht. Row 2-L-R 1st 2 players VP Staffers children, Wyatt Johnston, Cole Weaver, Shea Ulmer, Chase Jones, Kane Moore, Jay Houseknecht, Aiden Jackson, and Colby Ulmer. Row-3 L-R Joshua Meacham, Branson Fogelman and Jordan Cohick. Back row Row 4 L-R Todd Ulmer, Mariano Rivera, President Donald Trump, Craig Weaver Jr., Jonathan Houseknecht, Bruce Jones, and Scott Metzger.