St. John Neumann to hold commencement

The administration and Governance Board of St. John Neumann Regional Academy has announced the Commencement Keynote Speaker representing the class of 2013 will be Stephen D. Keener, president and chief executive officer of Little League International.

The ceremony will be held at the Community Arts Center at 7 p.m. today.

Keener joined the executive staff of Little League Baseball Inc. in 1980. In 1994 he was elected president of the organization by Little League’s International Board of Directors and in 1996 he was elected its Chief Executive Officer.

Under his leadership, Little League has expanded its reach around the world, improved its service to volunteers, responded to changes in technology and society and expanded its leadership role in youth sports safety.

When Keener took office in 1994, Little League already was widely recognized as the world’s largest youth sports organization, with more than 2 million players in approximately 80 countries. In the middle and late 1990s, international baseball experienced a growth phase that ultimately brought the Little League program to more than 3 million participants in more than 100 countries. Responding to this rapid expansion worldwide, Keener led the launch of Little League’s capital campaign, “A World of Opportunity.”

The campaign sought to grow the Little League Baseball World Series from eight teams to 16 teams, to establish a leadership and training center to serve Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and to expand Little League’s use of technology in service to local volunteers in communities worldwide. Successfully completed in 2001, the campaign has helped ensure the future of Little League.

As the program has grown, Keener also has recognized the importance of providing volunteers with more of the tools they need to serve the children who play and the communities who choose to join the Little League movement.

He has presided over the launch of the ASAP safety program, which has reduced injuries to players and volunteers; the Coach and Manager Training Program, which provides education in baseball and softball training techniques; and the Little League Child Protection Program, which seeks to identify those who would take advantage of children and exclude them from Little League’s volunteer ranks.

The safety and well-being of children has been one of Little League’s guiding principles since its founding in 1939. In service to that goal, Keener also has taken a leadership role in the broader youth sports arena, speaking out on topics as diverse as background checks for volunteers, equipment safety and pitch counts to protect young arms. In 2004, Little League became the first international youth sports organization to require that volunteers submit to an annual background check.

In 2007, Little League Baseball instituted a rule that limited the number of pitches that could be thrown in a day, as well as the amount of rest required, based on the age of the pitcher. Keener’s leadership has led to other mandatory safety enhancements including bases that disengage from their anchors to lessen foot and leg injuries, dangling throat protectors for catchers and elimination of the on-deck circle for ages 12 and under.

Keener’s achievements in service to Little League also include the successful negotiation of television contracts, first with ABC Sports and now with ESPN. Keener also has given volunteer recognition a high priority in the organization, establishing and expanding the Little League Awards Program. Finally, Keener also is the guiding force behind relationships with Little League’s family of corporate sponsors.

“As an Academy rooted in service learning and giving back and one committed in developing the whole person, it is so exciting to have Keener accept our invitation to speak to this outstanding class of students about community, volunteerism, higher education and citizenship,” said Frank G. Pellegrino, president, Board of Governance of St. John Neumann Regional Academy. “The integrity of the Little League Organization, the benefits it extends to the world in the development of youth and the excitement it creates for Williamsport and our great area is truly a priceless asset and crown jewel of our area. And to have President and CEO Keener with us for his remarks to this year’s class is so exciting and will truly be a remarkable event for all.”

Keener is a native Williamsport, where he resides with his wife, Cheryl. They are the parents of two sons and a daughter. All three of their children have been Little League participants. He is a graduate of Westminster College, New Wilmington.