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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2013 > January-April > Building Blocks: Urban Initiative Jamborees Offer Excitement, Pride and Opportunity for Players and Their Neighborhoods

Building Blocks: Urban Initiative Jamborees Offer Excitement, Pride and Opportunity for Players and Their Neighborhoods

Building Blocks: Urban Initiative Jamborees Offer Excitement, Pride and Opportunity for Players and Their Neighborhoods

2013 UI logo

Little Leaguers® playing purely for the fun of the game while meeting new people and seeing new places sounds quite common for any team playing tournaments during the spring and summer. Much like playing on manicured fields before excited family, friends and fans, these are typical sights and sounds of the tournament season, but if you are a child from the inner city or other urban setting, enjoying these moments may not be so common.

Opportunity has become synonymous with the Little League® Urban Initiative and the annual state Jamborees hosted by the program that began in 1999.

“The relevance and impact of the Urban Initiative Jamboree events is evident by the enthusiasm of those who participate,” said Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball. “The smiles on the faces of the players, parents and local league officials attending these annual jamborees demonstrate that success. Moreover, their appreciation for the program reinforces the importance of the role Little League can play in a child’s life.”

Since the Little League Urban Initiative decided to move its Jamboree concept from one national tournament to numerous state/regional tournaments in 2010, the initiative for boys and girls in urban neighborhoods has prospered. This year was no different.

“One of the greatest things that I witnessed this year was Little League volunteerism at its absolute best,” said Demiko Ervin, Director of the Little League Urban Initiative. “The local leagues that hosted these events did a great job and made the visiting leagues feel welcome.”

The 2013 Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree schedule included the following events:

  • Southern California Jamboree (National City, Calif.) - Major Division (9-12-year-olds) Baseball
  • Florida State Jamboree (Tampa, Fla.) – Major Division (9-12-year-olds) Baseball
  • Northern California Jamboree (Stockton, Calif.) – Major Division (9-12-year-olds) Softball
  • Georgia Jamboree (Marietta, Ga.) - Major Division (9-12-year-olds) Baseball
  • Pennsylvania Jamboree (Lancaster, Pa.) - Major Division (9-12-year-olds) Baseball
  • Northwest Jamboree (Portland, Ore.) - Major Division (9-12-year-olds) Softball
  • Texas Jamboree (Pearland, Texas) - Major Division (9-12-year-olds) Baseball
  • Central Region Jamboree (Indianapolis) - Major Division (9-12-year-olds) Baseball
  • New York Metro Jamboree (Bronx, N.Y.) - Major Division (9-12-year-olds) Baseball

Marietta Ga., Tampa, Fla., and Stockton, Calif., returned to host events in 2013, after hosting successful tournaments in 2012.

This year, the Jamboree events held in Stockton and Portland, Ore., featured Major Division Softball. Major Division (9-12-year-olds) players participated in all nine of the jamborees. Each jamboree featured between eight and 16 teams from leagues who are part of Little League’s Urban Initiative. Olympian and Little League graduate Crystl Bustos conducted skills clinics at both of the softball jamborees.

“We had Little League volunteers from across each of the regions who helped make each event memorable for the participants,” said Mr. Ervin. “I think that Little League volunteers sent a strong message this year, and that message is they are in full support of the Urban Initiative program and all Urban Initiative events in their cities, states, and regions.”

Beginning with the Southern California Jamboree on April 26-28 in National City, Calif., nine jamboree events were played over an eight-week period in eight different states and several different regions of the country. The number of jamborees has grown from four in the first year to nine tournaments this year.

The program’s main goal is to bring the benefits of Little League Baseball and Softball to boys and girls in urban neighborhoods, with the jamborees allowing those same players the opportunity to participate in a tournament setting.

“This was our first year hosting a jamboree, and the reception was great,” said Rolland Slade, District Administrator for California District 66 in San Diego. “The people at the games were super excited and the reaction from players motivated us.

The Southern California Jamboree entertained 12 teams, some traveling more than 100 miles to play.

“When the Jamboree ended, Charlie (Mujica) our league president, and the board of directors wanted the teams to leave with the impression that they wanted to do this again,” said Mr. Slade. “All the teams talked about the great experience they had and we’re really excited about next year’s Jamboree.”

Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, a long-time supporter of the Little League Urban Initiative, was on hand for the festivities on the second day of the event. He presented each player with their participation medal, and the San Diego Padres provided free tickets for all of the Jamboree teams to attend their game that weekend.

“It takes teamwork to host this kind of an event,” said Mr. Slade.

Jennie Todd agreed looking back on the Urban Jamboree hosted in Lancaster, Pa.

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“The players and families appreciated the special activities that were provided and were eager to share their experiences,” said Mrs. Todd, Pennsylvania District 23 Administrator. “It was a phenomenal experience for everyone involved, especially the players.

“We so appreciate that Little League offers this special tournament,” said Mrs. Todd, speaking for the 10 teams and 125 players who participated. “It gives urban players an opportunity to not only play in a tournament, but network with other players and families from many different areas. The jamboree is just one more example of Little League being about more than just the games.”

The state/regional jamborees took the place of the annual Little League Urban Initiative Jamboree hosted by Little League International each Memorial Day weekend. During the six years (2004-09) the Jamboree was played at the Little League International complex in South Williamsport, Pa., site of the Little League Baseball® World Series, teams from 66 different Urban Initiative leagues and more than 800 players participated.

In the last three years, nearly 300 teams and more than 3,000 players have had the opportunity to participate in an Urban Initiative Jamboree.

New York District 22 in The Bronx in New York City, a first-time host site, welcomed 10 teams to its Urban Jamboree.

Chris Amarosa, New York District 22 Administrator, said the local teams were equally excited to play teams from other areas and enjoyed the other events away from the field.

“At the end of the tournament, the community was interested in getting involved with the event in the future, while the leagues that participated were already asking if we were hosting next year,” said Mr. Amarosa. “The neighboring leagues that did not participate were interested in any future events we may have once they heard what a good time everyone had.”

Earlier this month, Jackie Robinson West Little League, a participant in the Little League Urban Initiative, played to within one win of this year’s Little League Baseball World Series. The team from Chicago came up short in the Great Lakes Region Championship to Michigan’s Grosse Point Wood-Shores Little League.

Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, official sponsor of Little League Baseball and Softball, attended the Jamborees in California, Texas and New York.

Little League’s Urban Initiative began in 1999 with programs in Los Angeles, Calif., and Harlem, N.Y. Since then it has expanded to more than 220 leagues in nearly 90 cities across the United States and participated in more than 30 renovation/field development projects. The Urban Initiative program has stimulated the participation of 4,000 teams and approximately 52,000 players since its inception.

“Thanks to many people, including the organizers at each location, the state jamborees have enjoyed considerable success and have been well-received over these past four years,” said Mr. Ervin. “Each year we strive to expand the opportunities so that more children in the program have the opportunity to experience all the things that come with playing in a tournament setting.

“Another benefit of the jamborees is the recognition afforded to those leagues that have embraced the Urban Initiative mission, while allowing them to show what a local league can do with the proper mix of resources, support and community involvement.”

More information on Little League’s Urban Initiative program can be found on the Little League website, at: LittleLeague.org; on the Little League Urban Initiative Facebook page, at: facebook.com/LittleLeagueUrbanInitiative; or by contacting Mr. Ervin at: dervin@LittleLeague.org.

The 2014 season will be the Little League Urban Initiative’s 15th season and the 75th Anniversary season for the Little League program.