|Little leaguers to honor Robinson at White House|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 06 July 2007 05:43|
The 7-year-olds, after finishing their first season of organized ball, square off July 15 against a team from Los Angeles in a tribute to Robinson's legacy as the first black major league baseball player, officials from Little League International announced Friday at a Brooklyn news conference.
``It will be an overwhelming experience,'' said Malik Means, one of the Brooklyn squad's three coaches. ``The bus ride to Washington, the tour of the White House, meeting face to face with the president. The first pitch will be awe-inspiring.''
Means was speaking metaphorically, since the two teams - representing the bi-coastal homes of Robinson's Dodgers - are playing a tee ball game on the South Lawn of the White House. The California team will also take the field for the one-inning contest with all of its players wearing No. 42.
Major league baseball officially retired Robinson's number 10 years ago on the 50th anniversary of his debut. In April, to mark the 60th anniversary of the Hall of Famer's first game, more than 200 major league players, coaches and managers wore No. 42.
Brooklyn's Joseph Jiminez already has a game plan for his meeting with President Bush, who will provide each player, manager and coach with a baseball bearing his signature.
``I'm going to give him a gift and a hug, and get an autograph and a picture,'' said the 7-year-old third baseman/outfielder. The tee ball game will highlight a three-day trip for both teams, with their expenses covered by the New York Mets, the Los Angeles Dodgers and two trustees of the Little League Foundation.
Both teams are part of the Little League's Urban Initiative, which endeavors to promote the game among minorities, single-parent homes and poor areas. A recent study determined that only 8.4 percent of major league players last season were black, the lowest level in at least two decades.
Means said the trip, along with providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience, would allow the coaches to teach the boys about Robinson's legacy.
``We haven't done it yet, but we definitely will,'' said Means. ``The big thing we stress with our team is character. This is a reward for all our hard work through the year.''