Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum: Feeling Like You're 10 Again

Like any rites of passage, the day I turned ten-years-old was a big day in my life. Though I was still unable to vote, drive, or join the army, I was now eligible to participate in a tradition far more important.

As I flipped the calendar from age nine to 10, I was finally old enough to try out for Little League. Up until now, I had played a few dozen neighborhood games of ball, but was always the last guy picked.

I was lacking in several critical areas that "the scouts" seemed to pick up on, including the ability to hit, throw or field a ball. I was the proverbial zero tool player.

With the help of my two, extremely patient, Little League coaches, I soon learned to hold a bat without having my arms crossed and how to throw like a boy. I mastered fielding a grounder without moving to the side and how to get under a fly without covering my head for safety.

But, there was a lesson taught that was far more important than learning how to throw or hit or field. A lesson taught to each and every Little Leaguer since it's inception 70 years ago; to win gracefully and lose with dignity.

So, when I had an opportunity to speak to Janice L. Ogurcak, Director of the Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, I felt as if I was speaking more to one of my teachers than to the curator of a museum.

"Most of our visitors come from far away", explained Ogurcak, who became the museums director in 2005. "We get visitors of all ages from all places, each remembering what Little League meant to them."

"Our senior citizen guests especially come in and tell us what a really important impact Little League had on the rest of their lives."

Ogurcak is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operation of the museum, which has about 30,000 visitors each year. She and her staff are responsible for maintenance of the many Little League artifacts, rotation of exhibits, special events, the museum gift shop and educational programs.

The museum is part of the Little League International Complex and offers interactive exhibits, which use a hands on approach to teach about the history of Little League.

The museum chronicles the growth of the league from one, three-team league in 1939 to the multi-national youth sporting organization that it is today.

Directly behind the museum is the Howard J. Lamade Stadium and the Little League Volunteer Stadium, where the Little League World Series is played each year in August.

"During that ten day period, our attendance at the museum will jump from about 100 visitors per day to anywhere from 500 to 1000" added Ogurcak. "We expect about 10,000 people to walk through the museum next week alone."

The most inspiring part of the museum is the Little League Hall of Excellence, where visitors enjoy the motivating stories of Little League graduates, who have gone on to distinguished careers as adults.

Members are selected not for what they did on the diamond, but for their contribution to society and include Ozzie Newsome, Dusty Baker, George W. Bush, Tom Selleck and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, each of whom grace the walls of the Hall of Excellence.

"The museum really made an impression on Kevin Costner when he was inducted," explained Ogurcak.

"He was so moved by the museum that he wanted to play on the ball field. He ended up taking a group of Little Leaguers onto the field at 11:00 that night to play baseball."

The museum gift shop has recently adopted the book A Glove of Their Own as a way to teach sharing and baseball to their many guests.

"We have a lot of people come into the shop, who know the book and how popular it is around the country. I am impressed that they know of the book considering it has been out such a short time."

"We were hoping that the authors could come in and sign for us this year, but we are hoping to have a big signing event to start next year."

Coach Bob Salomon, a driving force behind the award winning book is equally excited about aligning the book with the Little League Museum.

"The ideals and principles taught in our book are identical to those taught in Little League", said Salomon. "Teamwork, sharing and love of the game by our children, walks hand in hand in the book and in the spirit of Little League."

"To me, it's a perfect match," he added. "I'm truly humbled and excited that the Little League Museum is supporting our book."

The museum is located on U.S. Route 15 in South Williamsport, Pa., next to the Little League International Administration Building. Admission is $5 for adults (and children ages 14-17); $1.50 for children ages 5-13; and $3 for senior citizens (62 and over). Children age four and younger are admitted free of charge. Group tours and rates are available. Call 570-326-3607 for more information.

Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. After Labor Day, the museum is open Friday and Saturday only, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer for Bleacher Report and Seamheads. He can be reached at for comment or hire. He is also a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children's story that is capturing the heart of the nation by teaching sharing through baseball.

AGOTO is supported by players and coaches including Jason Grilli, Ken Griffey, Joe Torre, Craig Biggio, Sean Casey, Dick Drago, Luis Tiant, Phil Niekro, Ed Herrmann, and The Joe Niekro Foundation as part of their fundraising campaigns. Visit A Glove of Their Own and purchase under donor code JNF636 The Joe Niekro Foundation. With each sale $3.00 will go to The Foundation which is Aiding in the Research and Treatment of Aneurysm Patients and their Families.

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