Growing up, Karen Stotz Myers thought nothing of spending her summer evenings at the baseball fields while her dad, Carl Stotz, mowed the fields and her mother, Grayce, painted its fence.
To her, it was normal life.
"It was not a thought that this was different. It just was this was our life, but I didn't know other kids didn't do this.
Twenty years after Carl Stotz passed away, his daughter Karen Stotz Myers got one of his autographed baseballs from Jane and Charlie Phillips, of Springfield, Va., at last year’s Little League Baseball World Series. From left are Jane Phillips, Karen Stotz Myers and Charlie Phillips.
Little League Baseball founder Carl E. Stotz autographs a baseball for Heather Phillips Donohue in 1991.
"When I look back because of my father's role and history, I realize some of these things now as an adult that I didn't know anything about when I was little," Stotz Myers said.
Really, it was anything but ordinary. Carl E. Stotz was the founder of Little League Baseball, and its first game was played June 6, 1939.
That was the start of a global change in how young boys, and eventually girls, play baseball, as back then, sports weren't geared toward children.
Casey urges Obama to host anniversary celebration
As Little League World Series action continues, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, is calling on President Barack Obama to host a 75th anniversary celebration of Little League International next summer.
When Little League International celebrated its 50th anniversary, President George H.W. Bush hosted a White House event marking the anniversary.
In his letter to Obama, Casey cited the positive impact that Little League has on youth across the country and the positive role that the annual tournament plays in northcentral Pennsylvania's economy.
"Little League teaches children invaluable life lessons and has become an annual rite of summer for millions of Americans across the country," Casey said.
"I'm hopeful that the president will host an event to honor the 75th anniversary of Little League International next summer," he said. "Summer baseball helps children across the country engage in exercise and the annual tournament showcases the beauty of northcentral Pennsylvania."
To date, Little League has grown to more than 2.5 million players in all 50 U.S. states and 85 other countries, according to littleleague.org.
Of course, as a young girl, Stotz Myers never could have imagined this. Even as she grew older and saw her father's growing legacy, she never thought to save an autographed baseball. She gave plenty to kids, but she thought her dad always would be around.
In 1991, Jane and Charlie Phillips, a Springfield, Va., family, visited Stotz's home with a mutual friend. There, Stotz signed baseballs for the Phillips.
The following year, on June 4, 1992, Stotz passed away, almost 53 years to the date after the first Little League Baseball game was played.
"After my father died, my life revolved around making sure his artifacts were preserved, and people remembering what he did. It's very easy to forget something that's been around as long as Little League has been around, how it started," Stotz Myers said. "I wanted to make sure the world did not forget who gave them the sport of Little League."
While she worked to commemorate him by renaming bridges, trolleys and restoring the original league site, she realized she still didn't have an autographed baseball from her father, a man she called Daddy.
Twenty years later, at last summer's Little League Baseball World Series, an usher introduced Stotz Myers to the Phillips family. Through the conversation, the Phillipses learned she still yearned for one of those signed baseballs.
They happened to still have one signed by her dad in 1991.
"I said, 'Oh, you're lucky. I don't even have one.' ... It was my father, and you just think he'll always be there," Stotz Myers said.
The next day, Stotz Myers finally got her dad's autographed baseball, thanks to the Phillipses.
"I was thrilled, naturally. ... That was very touching to think I have the ball he signed ... 21 years ago," Stotz Myers said.
Stotz's autograph was "very distinctive," she said, with his "z" written with a certain flourish. He always signed as Carl E. Stotz.
The Phillipses love telling Carl's story, especially as he directly influenced their lives. Charlie Phillips, 66, has coached baseball for 36 years and 22 All-Star teams.
Their daughter, Heather Phillips Donohue, was the first to make Little League All-stars at West Springfield Little League, which her dad coached, and was the first girl to hit one out of the park for a home run, said Jane Phillips, 65.
Heather Phillips Donohue played on the 1986 West Springfield Little League State Championship team and is the only girl from Virginia to have played in Southern Regionals, Jane Phillips said. It was at that tournament where they first met Stotz.
"Carl gave the kids a really inspiring talk after they won the state championship in 1986," she said.
Now, the Phillipses' granddaughter, Reily Donohue, plays Little League softball, which her mom coaches.
Stotz Myers said it was hard work that got her dad and the sport to this point.
"It didn't come easy; he had to persevere to get sponsors. ... If you try hard enough, not necessarily in baseball, but with any dream, things will work out. ... That's what my father always would do," she said.
She's heard countless times how Stotz inspired many. One person told her, " 'My dad told me about your dad, and he was so good.' And he was. He was," Stotz Myers said.
Now she finally has a baseball signed by her father, a treasure to remember him by.
"I live with Little League memories," Stotz Myers said.