Little League® announced in August 2022 that they would be inducting their first class of community heroes as part of its celebration of hosting the 75th World Series.
The program to identify community heroes launched in 2020. It is a celebration of the organization’s volunteers and players who make contributions on and off the field in their hometowns. As part of a revamped awards structure, the volunteers nominated in 2022 became eligible for Community Hero of the Year recognition.
The honorees received a $1,000 grant for their local league to express thanks for their efforts. []
“The backbone of the Little League program is the volunteers and players who go above and beyond to make the local league experience meaningful for all those around them,” said Little League’s President and CEO, Stephen D. Keener. “Our Community Heroes program has brought the spotlight to those incredible individuals who enhance that experience.”
A 10-Year-Old Was One of the Individuals Honored
Evangeline Iarossi is a softball player from Tampa, FL. She plays with the Palma Ceia Little League, but her community faces several problems. One of them was a lack of available fields for practices and games.
Her local Little League complex had multiple baseball fields, but only one softball field was available. That meant many of her practices were canceled.
When the baseball teams needed room, they’d often take over the softball field, making it even harder to practice and play. Iarossi’s team would end up on a t-ball field.
“A lot of girls are dropping out because they don’t get the practice,” she said. “When they don’t get practice because they can’t get on the fields, then they can’t get to be as good, so they just quite because it’s not as fun for them.”
Instead of letting others deal with the issue, Iarossi decided to send a handwritten note to the city’s mayor, Jane Castor, who was a basketball star at the University of Tampa. Her goal was to generate support for the cause, but it did much more. Her note inspired the city’s government to provide grant funding from Disney to construct more fields that are also ADA compliant. []
“I said it’s not the 1800s anymore,” commented Iarossi. “Girls would like to play sports too.” It even led to an appearance on the Kelly Clarkson show to discuss her efforts.
“I hope that all girls get to play softball, and that it’s just fair for all in sports.”
A Mother Who Does It All Was Honored
Kristen Rocha works full-time as a special needs teacher in her community. She’s also the coaching coordinator for the Atwater Little League in California and coaches her three sons. When Rocha isn’t working with baseball, she’s volunteering on the board of her local youth soccer club.
“Rocha plays such an important role within our local organization, and we don’t know what we would do without her,” said the league’s Facebook page announcing her status as a community hero. “Thank you for all that you do to help this league run. We couldn’t do it without you!” []
A League President Launches Girl’s Pitching Machine
Mike Snead has served as his Laurel Little League chapter president for a few years. He’s constantly seeking ways to unite people, including a dedicated girl’s pitching machine league.
Most Little League programs with a pitching machine league combine boys and girls for a co-ed playing experience.
Outside of baseball, Snead has also created a mentoring program called Delivering Our Youth Out of Uncertainty, or “DO YOU.”
As part of Snead’s efforts, the Little League program in Laurel became unified to eliminate “baseball” and “softball” teams, representing the organization instead. That includes wearing non-traditional uniform colors at some age levels, including pink and purple.
A Mom Wants Everyone to Have Fun
Meghan Kegley works full-time as a high school teacher and serves as the president of her Little League in Lewis County, KY. She wants everyone who plans to have a fun and memorable experience.
The organization hosts movie nights at the ballpark, organizes daytime events, and finds ways to coordinate with other organizations in her community. The focus is always on the kids.
More information about the Little League Community Heroes program can be found at littleleague.org/communityheroes. You can also nominate someone on that site.
[] https://www.littleleague.org/news/six-role-models-to-be-honored-as-inaugural-class-of-little-league-community-heroes-of-the-year/; []https://www.fox13news.com/news/10-year-old-softball-players-letter-to-tampa-mayor-helps-level-playing-field-for-girls-across-tampa; []https://www.facebook.com/ALLBaseballandSoftball/photos/a.10155037388715627/10166067901655627/?type=3