Looking out, looking back

Having played its first game more than 70 years ago, Little League has built a long and storied history. And it’s through a $4 million renovation project that the organization’ hopes to preserve its history at its museum along Route 15 in South Williamsport.

“I think it’s important,” said Lance Van Auken, vice president and executive director of the museum, on preserving Little League’s past. “It allows us to archive our history going forward. It’s great for people to know where (Little League) has been so they know where it’s going.”

But it’s not only the inside of the museum that is undergoing change – going from two floors to one and incorporating a six-inning format to lead visitors through the museum – it also will see one outside of the building.

The First Community Foundation Partnership recently made a $300,000 grant to Little League through the Williamsport Lycoming Impact Fund to build a viewing plaza on the east end of the museum.

The plaza will be designed as a miniature baseball diamond and overlook Howard J. Lamade Stadium. Van Auken said that the area designated for the plaza has an “awesome view.”

“It’s kind of something that’s always been missing at this complex,” he said of the plaza.

Van Auken said the two organizations have a “long, long history” together, having worked on many projects.

The plaza not only will serve the community during the Little League Baseball World Series but throughout the year.

“It’s something we intend the whole community to use,” Van Auken said.

Flag poles surrounding the plaza will display the national and state flags, along with the flags of participants in each year’s World Series.

As far as the renovations inside the museum, Van Auken reported everything is “on schedule and on budget.”

From sound clips of influential individuals – including founder Carl Stotz – to a large touch-screen table, the goal of the updated museum is not only to inform visitors but engage them.

People don’t want to “just look at things,” in museums anymore but do things and interact with exhibits, VanAuken said. So the renovation will give visitors the opportunity to learn about local Little Leagues all throughout the globe through a variety of touchscreens, activities and a dugout theater.

“I think it has something for everybody,” Van Auken said.

But through all of the updates, one exhibit will remain – the Hall of Excellence. A new feature in the hall will give visitors the opportunity to look in a mirror and see themselves standing beside inductees. Memorabilia from inductees also will be on display. Items from former President George W. Bush, a basketball signed by 2012 inductee Dick Vitale and Dr. Story Musgrave’s space suit are some items that will be on display.

As Van Auken explained, the updates to the museum were needed. The museum has not had a significant update since its opening in 1982, so Van Auken wanted to do it the “right way.”

And although the museum will change, Van Auken said the league’s goals and mission have not waned “one iota.” He said Little League still is about making great citizens, not athletes.

He hopes after visiting the museum, individuals either will want to start or expand a Little League in their area.

The new museum is to open on June 15, during National Little League Week.