Army-Navy Teams Slug It Out at the White House
By Sgt 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2003 Most teams have to win a world championship before visiting the White House to meet with the president. That was not the case today.
The Fort Belvoir Little League Braves and the Naval Base Little League Yankees were the invited guests of President and Mrs. Bush for the opening game of the 2003 White House Tee-Ball season. The Army team was visiting from the Virginia post located in metropolitan Washington. The Navy players traveled from the sprawling naval complex in Norfolk, Va., about three hours southeast of Washington.
The White House event was dedicated in honor of the men and women in uniform, the president said in opening remarks. Each player wore a patch from a different military unit on his or her uniform.
ESPN sports announcer Kenny Mayne, called the game, held on the White House South Lawn.
Before the start, the president led the players in an oath in which they pledged "to play fair, strive to win and always do their best." He then yelled, "Play ball," and the game began.
On a perfect weather day for baseball, a perfect game was played: Every player got a hit, and every player scored in the one-inning game.
Special hit of the day came from 6-year-old T.J. Flood of the Fort Belvoir Braves, who sported the White House Communications Agency patch on his uniform.
He got the crowd cheering when he belted the ball deep to center field. It was the longest hit of the game, and before the throw could catch him, he'd made it to home plate.
"I always hit hard in the game," T.J. said in a post-game interview.
Cal Ripken Jr., honorary commissioner of White House Tee-Ball and former Baltimore Orioles player, was on hand for the event, as well as two Hall of Fame players, Brooks Robinson and Billy Williams.
Ripken said that one thing about being a big league player is that "you have influence with kids." He said that he's "always enjoyed passing on the fun of baseball ... I'm tickled to death to be here."
Also on hand was Darrell Green, chairman of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation and former Washington Redskins standout. Green joined the president in recognizing youngsters Tanisha Faulkner and Mileika Miki of the Fort Meade, Md., 4-H Club for their volunteerism.
The two were credited with making more than 300 yellow ribbons to show support for members of the Armed Forces and participating in Operation Chocolate Chip Cookies, an effort to support local military police and fire department personnel in their community.
The president launched the White House Tee-Ball initiative to promote interest in baseball and to foster a spirit of teamwork and service to America's youth. This is the third season for the initiative. Three games were held during last year's season.
The players were given a tour of the White House. After the game, each player got a photo taken with the president and an autographed baseball by Ripken.
The players and their families then joined the president for a picnic on the White House lawn - something not even world championship teams get to do.
"I don't think they know exactly how big this is," said Maura Janssen, whose son plays with the Yankees. "In a few years they will. They'll look back and just know that they were a part of something special. This is a one in a lifetime chance."
Tee-Ball is entry-level baseball for young players. Team members take turns hitting the ball off a batting 'T' pedestal at home plate. Players range in age from 4 to 8. The visiting Yankees and Braves featured 5- and 6-year-olds.