Little League Baseball and Softball is the world’s largest organized youth sports program. In the span of just seven decades, Little League has grown from three teams to nearly 180,000 teams, in all 50 U.S. states and scores of countries. It is estimated that 35 million people have played in or volunteered for a local Little League program.
The basic goal remains the same as it was in 1939: to give the children of the world a game that provides fundamental principles (sportsmanship, fair play and teamwork) they can use later in life to become good citizens. We use baseball and softball as tools to teach these principles while providing top-notch skills programs and competition to become good, competitive players; all this while emphasizing the safety and longevity of these athletes.
Little League Baseball is a Federal Incorporation granted by a bill signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 17, 1964, and amended September 24, 1974, to reflect the admission of girls. The legislation, which received unanimous approval from both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, is Public Law 88-378. It is the highest recognition that the federal government can accord. It provides for incorporation of Little League Baseball in all 50 states as an educational institution, endowing the program with protective integrity by the U.S. Government. Action of the President and Congress places Little League Baseball in the same category as Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Boys Clubs of America, and a select group of other agencies similarly chartered. However, Little League is the only youth sports organization so honored. The Federal Charter of Incorporation requires Little League to submit its annual report directly to the U.S. Congress each year. “LITTLE LEAGUE,” “LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL,” “LITTLE LEAGUER,” “LL,” “DUGOUT,” “CHALLENGER DIVISION,” the OFFICIAL LITTLE LEAGUE BASEBALL EMBLEMS, etc., are the principal registered trademarks and service marks of Little League Baseball, Incorporated. These marks are protected both by a special Act of Congress and registrations with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. All rights in and to any and all marks of Little League Baseball, Incorporated, are reserved.
One of the challenges we face in Little League is making sure the words “Little League” are used properly. Sometimes, an organization will call itself “Little League,” when, in fact, it is not affiliated with Little League at all. In these cases, unsuspecting parents and children may be fooled into thinking they are playing in a “real” Little League program. In other cases, the media reports on a situation involving “little league football,” or “little league basketball.” However, there is no such thing in either case, and Little League has been diligent in trying to correct these errors.
The Little League All Star tournament is under the direction and authority of the Little League International Tournament Committee in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. More than 7,000 teams--approximately 6,500 teams in the U.S alone-- begin the tournaments in the Little League Baseball division. About 45,000 games are played in eight divisions leading up to the various World Series tournaments. More than 16,000 of those games are played in the Little League division.
Tournament play is regarded as an important supplemental phase of the Little League program. Managers and coaches also are selected from the personnel of local leagues. There are eight regions represented in the United States and eight international regions. Tournament play is conducted through the various levels to ultimately determine regional champions. Each regional champion is invited to participate in the World Series. To qualify for the Little League Baseball World Series, a team comprised of the best 11- and 12-year-olds in a Little League program must advance through the world’s largest elimination tournament. At the Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, the 10-day attendance is normally well over 250,000, with crowds of 30,000 or more for the championship game. A record total of 366,453 fans attended the 2009 World Series. Millions more see the games on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN360.com, and ABC. There is never any admission charge to attend a Little League game at Howard J. Lamade Stadium or Little League Volunteer Stadium. Tickets for the championship game are given away by lottery well in advance of the World Series. The highest estimated attendance for a Little League Baseball World Series game was in 1989 when National Little League from Trumbull, Connecticut, defeated Kang-Tu of Chinese Taipei in the championship game before 45,000 people. (Exact figures are not available since tickets are not required for most Little League Baseball events.)