Next month, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred will complete a lifelong journey from gritty shortstop on his Rome (N.Y.) Little League team to enshrinement in the Little League Hall of Excellence.Little League Baseball announced on Wednesday that the Commissioner -- in honor of his dedication to the growth of
Next month, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred will complete a lifelong journey from gritty shortstop on his Rome (N.Y.) Little League team to enshrinement in the Little League Hall of Excellence.
Little League Baseball announced on Wednesday that the Commissioner -- in honor of his dedication to the growth of youth baseball and softball, his commitment to pursuing excellence, and his positive influence as a role model to aspiring Little Leaguers -- will be presented with that organization's highest honor at the 27th Little League International Congress on Jan. 19 in New Orleans.
"I am honored to be enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence alongside the many great men and women who have come before me," Commissioner Manfred said. "The successes that Major League Baseball has had with our youth outreach efforts would not be possible without terrific partnerships, like the one we have built with everyone at Little League. The organization shares our belief that anyone who wants to play our great game should have that opportunity. We are very proud of the work we have already done together, but know there is plenty more to come in the future."
"It will be an honor to welcome Commissioner Manfred into the Little League Hall of Excellence," said Hugh Tanner, chairman of Little League International's board of directors. "His commitment to the growth and development of youth baseball and softball in communities around the world, and the support that he has shown for the Little League program during his time as Commissioner, has been greatly appreciated by those of us at the grassroots level. Both of our futures are bright working together."
In 2015, Manfred became the first alumnus of Little League elected as MLB Commissioner. His dedication to the youth was evident from the beginning as he made his first major public appearance as Commissioner-elect at the 2014 Little League Baseball World Series, throwing out the first pitch of the August game between the Mid-Atlantic Region (Taney Little League) and the West Region (Mountain Ridge Little League).
During Manfred's tenure, there has been a major focus on connecting and engaging youth in baseball and softball through initiatives and events such as Play Ball; MLB Pitch, Hit & Run; the Jr. Home Run Derby; All-Star Week-related activities; and Little League Days at MLB ballparks.
In August, MLB introduced the Little League Classic, a special regular-season game between the Pirates and Cardinals in Williamsport, Pa., during the Little League World Series. As part of the festivities surrounding the Little League Classic, players from both Major League teams attended the Little League Baseball World Series in a first-of-its-kind show of support for youth baseball. Later that night, the players and families of the 16 teams competing in the Little League World Series then had the unique opportunity to attend the MLB Little League Classic at Historic Bowman Field, marking the first MLB experience for many of the youth.
Following the success of the inaugural game, MLB and Little League will once again hold the MLB Little League Classic in 2018, with a game between the Phillies and Mets on Aug. 19.
"Major League Baseball's greatest responsibility is to ensure that today's youth become active participants in our game as players and fans," Manfred said. "The MLB Little League Classic exemplifies our entire sport's commitment to building a stronger connection between young people and the national pastime."
As part of the celebration of the inaugural MLB Little League Classic, Manfred played a pivotal role in the formation of an official partnership between MLB and Little League International to continue fostering interest and encouraging participation in youth-centered baseball and softball activities. As part of the partnership, MLB and Little League will collaborate on various youth and fan initiatives, and also provide visibility for these programs through a number of platforms, including digital and social media.
Manfred's official enshrinement into the Little League Hall of Excellence will take place during Little League International's Quadrennial Congress. Following the ceremony, Manfred will participate in a special keynote conversation with Little League president and CEO Stephen Keener, to be broadcast on Facebook Live through Little League's official page at facebook.com/LittleLeague.
Enshrinement in the Little League Hall of Excellence, established in 1988, is an annual honor bestowed upon a Little League graduate (or graduates) who have demonstrated a commitment to excellence in their chosen profession and exemplify the values learned as children in Little League baseball or softball. Manfred will become the 56th member of the Hall. Kevin Costner, Bruce Springsteen and President George W. Bush are among past inductees.
Eligible recipients must have played in a chartered Little League and become a recognized role model as an adult.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him on Twitter @Marathoner.