By Lee Howard
World of Little League in South Williamsport presents the story of Little League.
Little League baseball began in the Depression era and took off when fathers wanted to reconnect with their sons after returning from Word War II.
The first ever Little League was set up in 1939 by Carl Stotz, who loved to play catch with his two young nephews in Williamsport. Back then, there were just three teams playing a scaled-down version of competitive baseball. Today, Little League has more than 150,000 baseball and softball teams representing over 80 countries. An annual baseball World Series is held in South Williamsport.
Hour-long self-guided audio tours for up to 45 people at a time explore the Little League museum followed by a visit to the World of Little League® Official Store. Available only to groups, the two-and-a-half-hour Grand Slam Group Tour goes behind-the-scenes and includes a hot lunch in the dining hall, where tournament players eat.
“We give them a guided tour of our International Grove, sort of our Olympic Village, where players from all 16 teams stay when we have the Little League World Series here,” said Lance Van Auken, executive director at World of Little League. “We never let the public in there, but for groups, we give a tour of where the players live. There’s also a behind-the-scenes tour of Lamade Stadium, the largest of our two stadiums, originally built in 1959.”
The museum is divided into six galleries representing the six innings in a Little League game. It reopened in 2013 after a $4.5 million overhaul introduced state-of-the-art exhibits.
“We have a 3-D catching exhibit — you put your face in a catcher’s mask to see and feel what it’s like to catch a fast ball at the Little League World Series,” Van Auken said. “There’s nothing like that available in the whole world.”
Artifacts include one of the oldest baseballs in the world from 1868 and the most complete game-used uniform worn by Babe Ruth.
In the gift store, an area is set aside for pin collectors. There’s plenty of Little League World Series apparel on sale marked “Williamsport,” where it all began.
Motorcoaches park for free in the museum lot on U.S. 15 and pull in and drop off at the front entrance.
For more information, call 570-326-1921, ext. 2280, or visit littleleague.org/learn/museum.