June 18, 2015

Little League is turning $4 million in new television revenue into more opportunities for local youth teams.

The world's largest organized youth sports program is expected to announce a plan to spend the money helping local Little League programs expand in their communities.

In August 2013, Little League International agreed to an eight-year, multi-platform rights extension with ESPN that runs from 2015 to 2022. The contract calls for an increase from $4 million to $8 million this year.

''We want to put as much of that back into local Little League programming,'' said Stephen D. Keener, chief executive of Little League. ''That's the right place for it. That's where it should go.''

The new ''Grow the Game'' initiative will include grants to fix up fields; support for urban programs to attract minorities to baseball and softball; and education programs to train volunteers, including coaches and umpires.

''We feel it is our responsibility to ensure that every local Little League program can benefit from the partnerships that help Little League International grow the game,'' said Davie Jane Gilmour, chairman of Little League's board.

Little League also plans to reduce the charter free paid by all 6,500 leagues throughout the United States to $10 per team from $16.

More than $1.8 million is earmarked for 7,000 local Little League programs in more than 80 countries. It includes a $500,000 disaster relief fund for helping local leagues hurt by floods, tornados, hurricanes, and other natural disasters.

''We awarded our first 10 or 12 grants already and we have another 30 or so in the application process right now,'' Keener said.

One of the grants went to help provide a new playing field for Harlem Little League in New York.

''They had more kids that wanted to play but they didn't have anywhere for them to play because they only had one field,'' Keener said.

Little League also plans to work closely with Major League Baseball on its efforts to increase youth participation.

''Major League Baseball and Little League Baseball have common goals for the game we share, particularly the expansion of opportunities for kids to play and the improvement of infrastructure in areas of need,'' MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said.

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