Little League recognizes contributions

Little League Baseball brings joy every year to the many kids who are fortunate enough to play the game.

But the games wouldn’t be possible without the many people who give their time to Little League, including those who bring that extraordinary combination of sweat and unselfishness that no doubt comes from the pure, unbridled joy of the sport.

Some of those extra special people were honored during the annual Little League Baseball World Series Awards Breakfast at the Genetti Hotel Thursday.

They included people such as Bob McCamey, of Dallas, Texas.

McCamey received the 2013 Howard and Gail Paster Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award.

“I love Little League,” he told the audience. “I love the image” of Little League.

That said, McCamey asked everyone to raise the “bar a little bit” by helping to introduce Little League in areas where kids don’t have the chance to play it.

“Go to places you may not feel comfortable,” he said. “You love baseball, you’ll love coaching in the inner city.”

A tearful Dave Mantlo, winner of the 2013 Volunteer of the Year Award, talked about his 49 years as a volunteer.

Little League, he said, isn’t about all-star teams, it’s about having fun.

Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour, chairwoman of Little League Baseball International Board of Directors, noted that Mantlo has worked tirelessly to build one of the best Little League complexes in Grand Junction, Colo.

Last year, in the midst of health problems, he even called his Little League colleagues from the hospital to keep abreast of what was happening, she noted.

The Mom of the Year Award went to Robyn Aiken, of St. Augustine, Fla.

Her son, Brad, nominated her for the award by writing an essay citing reasons why she should receive it.

Brad noted that his mother works hard running her own tax office while still finding time for baseball, including at one point managing teams on which he played.

He said his mother was the reason he played baseball.

Aiken, for her part, said God, family and baseball are what’s important in her family’s lives.

Dan Vaandering, of Aloha, Ore., got involved with and later became president of Little League Baseball’s Challenger Division in the Pacific Northwest.

The Challenger Division enables boys and girls with physical and mental challenges to play baseball.

Vaandering’s son, Alex was a special needs kid and Little Leaguer, who died at age 11 in 2010.

The one rule with Challenger Division baseball, he said, is “if you’re not there, you can’t play.”

“If you don’t have a Challenger program in your area, start one there,” he said.

Jaylon Fong, of the West Covina Little League, West Covina, Calif., received the Good Sport Award.

Little League President and CEO Steve Keener said the award is presented to a Little Leaguer who personifies all the attributes of fair play and sportsmanship.

Fong, 12, continues to play Little League despite battling leukemia since 2008.

And he is a shining example to others to embrace life.

He speaks publicly about his illness, providing hope and courage to others who are facing hurdles in their lives.

Keener said all the Little League volunteers being honored represent the foundation and strength of the program.

“Without you, it wouldn’t exist,” he said.