A panel discussion hosted by former Little League greats José Maiz, Todd Frazier and Luke Ramirez, as well as a tribute to the 21 shooting deaths at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, headlined the summons. opening ceremony of the 28th International Little League Convention at the Community Arts Center in downtown Williamsport.
Uvalde Little League, active since 1959, received the Carl E. Stotz Little League Community Award, after a moment of silence to honor the victims. Rachel Lathe, district administrator for the 21st District of Texas, was on hand to accept the award and a check for $5,000 to use as a grant for Uvalde’s Little League.
“The indescribable and tragic event that happened less than a month ago is something no community, parent or child should ever have to face, and no words can express the sadness and horror. we have all felt over the past few weeks. Often, in the wake of a tragedy, Little League grounds can become a place that brings back a sense of healing to a community and we hope Little League members and the entire Uvalde community will be able to find that comfort through the Uvalde Little League program.We have seen many of our local leagues and communities around the world who have supported the Uvalde Little League program during this tragic time and we are happy to be able to present this award as a step forward as they begin to heal as a community,” said Little League CEO Stephen Keener.
Longtime MLB umpire Gerry Davis was also honored, as he received the President’s Award. Davis, who retired from Major League umpiring last year, was a 40-year big league veteran and is the only umpire to officiate at both the Little League World Series and MLB World. Series.
After remarks from local dignitaries such as Williamsport Mayor Derek Slaughter and State Senator Gene Yaw, and an in memoriam presentation, among other housekeeping measures, the recognition of hundreds of delegates from around the world from each region of Little League led us to the round table. .
Maiz, a 2005 inductee into the Little League Hall of Fame, was a member of the Industrial Little League 1957 World Series Champions from Monterrey, Mexico, the first team outside the United States to win the series. The team was immortalized in two films, the 1960 film The Little Giants and the 2009 film Perfect game, based on Maiz teammate Angel Macias’ perfect game in the 1959 championship game, the first and only championship game in World Series history. He went on to a successful construction career and now owns the Monterrey Sultanes of the Mexican Baseball League. He is also an executive for Little League Baseball in Mexico.
Maiz recalled his tournament held in 1959, as the team’s left fielder noted that back then it was a one-elimination tournament all summer, with a loss of your local district to the World Series Finals eliminating you. This Monterrey team has allowed just 14 points in 13 games en route to the world championship.
Also on hand was Luke Ramirez, the 2009 World Series Champions Park View Little League Little League cleanup hitter from Chula Vista, Calif. Ramirez, who was one of the most physically imposing players in Little League World Series history, homered four times and drove in eleven runs in his team’s title chase at Williamsport. After interning with Little League in the summer of 2017, he has since pursued a career in baseball, serving as marketing coordinator for Bally Sports San Diego, the television affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
Keener, who moderated the chat with the three former players, asked Ramirez about his memories of his time at Williamsport.
“I think looking back, my favorite memory was kissing my dad on the pitch after the final. A lot of work went into that race…all I remember from my experience here is not are just such good memories and it’s so happy. I’m so happy to watch it year after year and see that these kids are creating the same kind of memories that I am.” said Ramirez.
Keener then asked Ramirez how he dealt with being one of the first little leaguers to play in the World Series in the digital age, noting how much coverage had expanded, since the days when the championship game was televised until today where all regional games are also televised through the ESPN family of networks.
“It was definitely a different experience. It started at the San Bernardino Regional, filling out ESPN quizzes, quizzes about your favorite foods, your favorite colors like that. I think I took it really well. I noticed that I get a lot of questions from reporters most of the time and requests like that. I think it’s just because I was comfortable in front of the camera or talking to reporters at an early age, and then eventually led me to want to stay in sports media after my playing career. said Ramirez.
The highlight of the panel was Todd Frazier. Frazier, the star player for 1998 championship team Toms River International of Toms River, New Jersey, started at Rutgers before an illustrious major league career where he was twice named All-Star and won the Home Run 2015 Derby. Frazier hit 218 homers during his 11-year career and won a silver medal with Team USA at last year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
For Frazier, it was a no-brainer to come back and speak at the International Congress.
“It worked perfectly. Steve Keener is a very good friend of mine and he asked me: “we have our convention back in Williamsport. I’d love to have you up there for a question and an answer and, you know, meeting new people and going after that’ and I said, ‘it’s a no brainer’, and I’ll don’t anything for this guy. He has done a lot for me in my career. And I’m trying to get back into Little League and help out as much as I can. I train my son at eight years old. I had another son at three so I’ll be there a lot so anything I can do to help for sure,” Frazier said.
Keener asked Frazier about the trip he and his champion teammates took to Yankee Stadium after their 1998 Little League World Series title and him recreating the photo he took in 1998 with Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter when the two were in the big league years later.
Frazier said the photo once again made the rounds on social media, so he had to ask Jeter to recreate it.
The International Congress will continue until Monday.