Little League baseball fans from across the Southeast soon will be flocking to Warner Robins every year, thanks in part to an agreement Little League International has reached with the city.
Just before 5 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, the Little League International Board of Directors, based in Williamsport, Pa., unanimously resolved to name Warner Robins the site of the new Southeast Region headquarters. The announcement was made by president and CEO of Little League International, Stephen D. Keener.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to thank Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, (Warner Robins) Mayor Donald S. Walker, and the leaders and citizens of Warner Robins, for their part in helping to bring the new home for the eight-state Little League Southeast Region to Central Georgia,” Keener said in a press release. “We trust our relationship will continue to grow, and that the people of the Warner Robins area will enjoy having this important center of Little League activity in their community. And we know that our volunteers in the Southeast Region will find that the new site will be convenient because of its more central location, and the facilities will be first-rate.”
Lance Van Auken, communications vice president for Little League International confirmed the agreement in a phone call late Tuesday afternoon, saying that it means that Warner Robins will serve as host site for the group’s Southeast Region tournament in coming summers.
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Beginning in July 2010, Warner Robins will host the set of tournament games that will decide the teams that advance to the Little League World Series, an international event held annually in Williamsport.
Also announced Monday, the 2009 Southeast Regional will be held in Ceredo-Kenova, W. Va. as the regional offices transition from Gulfport, Fla. to Warner Robins.
Van Auken said it is still “yet to be resolved” whether the current Warner Robins American Little League fields located in south Houston County will be used as the tournament site. He said league officials have preliminarily talked about constructing new facilities somewhere in the area and that they could be built somewhere around the current group of fields where the Warner Robins All-Stars teams are based.
“The transition technically begins (this) morning as we will try as quickly as we can to go on and continue working out a few big details,” Van Auken said. “There are still a lot of issues we need to iron out, like finding the temporary office space our people will need as the transition begins.”
Winners of the Southeast Regional in 2006 and 2007, teams from Georgia have appeared in two of the past three Little League World Series. In 2007, the Warner Robins All-Stars won the Little League World Series, beating an all-star team from Japan on a walk-off home run. This past season, the Warner Robins All-Stars lost in the Southeast Regional and failed to reach the World Series.
“It’s important to note the history Georgia has with the Little League World Series,” Van Auken said. “The state has won back-to-back Southeast titles in 2006 and 2007. And we’ve had a long history with the state of Georgia. We have teams there that have been with us since 1950 and 1951.
“Plus, we also recognize that there are some places where we’d like to grow in Georgia where baseball isn’t played. So we take this as a positive agreement to help expand our efforts there.”
The original field of 18 cities in six states was narrowed to Morganton, N.C., and Warner Robins in November. Both cities were represented by teams in the Little League Baseball World Series in recent years.
According to the release, the Southeast Region headquarters serve as the administrative center for Little League International’s baseball and softball activities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The Southeast Region Championship game has been televised nationally by ESPN or ESPN2 each year since 1997.