With a Major League Baseball shortstop as a father and an uncle who also played and a managed in the big leagues, Roy Smalley III was born into baseball. Mr. Smalley used those lessons first learned from his father and uncle and as a Little Leaguer® at Westchester National Little League in Los Angeles, Calif., to become a professional athlete, a successful businessman, broadcaster, and advocate of youth baseball and softball through his work as the President of Pitch in for Baseball. To recognize those achievements, Mr. Smalley has been named the 2014 recipient of the William A. “Bill” Shea Distinguished Little League® Graduate Award.
Mr. Smalley, who was an MLB shortstop from 1975-87 for the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox, will be honored during an on-field ceremony at the 2014 Little League Baseball® World Series on Tuesday, August 19, prior to the 7:30 p.m. game.
“Mr. Smalley is a wonderful example of how the lessons that you learn from Little League help develop not only Major League Baseball players, but more importantly, major league people,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “We have gotten to know Roy through his great work with Pitch In For Baseball, and everything that organization does to encourage boys and girls around the world to play baseball and softball. We are excited to honor him with the Bill Shea Distinguished Little League Graduate Award.”
“I will never forget being nine years old and getting into Little League for the first time,” said Mr. Smalley. “Little League meant everything. All I cared about was playing ball, and I loved everything about it – the games, the practices, the friends. That first Little League season was just so memorable.”
Mr. Smalley played for Westchester National Little League from age nine to 12. He would go on to play at the University of Southern California, where he was part of the 1972 and 1973 College World Series Championship Teams. Drafted first overall by the Texas Rangers in 1974, Mr. Smalley posted a .257 batting average with 163 home runs and 694 RBI during a 13-year career. He was voted the starting shortstop in the 1979 MLB All-Star Game, and retired in 1987 after helping the Minnesota Twins win the World Series.
“Baseball is a game of standing up to failure,” said Mr. Smalley. “At your best, you fail seven out of ten times at the plate. It’s about how you handle that failure and keep swinging. Of all the team sports, baseball is the one in which you are most responsible for your individual performance. It’s just pitcher versus hitter.”
Those lessons learned on the field as a Little Leaguer and Major Leaguer have lead Mr. Smalley to a successful career off the field. Immediately after his retirement, he was named the Executive Director of the 1991 Special Olympic World Games in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He then started his work as a financial advisor, and is currently a Senior Vice President, Wealth Advisor and Senior Portfolio Manager with the Smalley Smith Group at Morgan Stanley. In addition to his financial work, Mr. Smalley is a Minnesota Twins commentator for Fox Sports North.
In 2010, Mr. Smalley was named President of Pitch In For Baseball. A partner of Little League, Pitch In For Baseball is the central organization for the collection and redistribution of new and gently used youth baseball and softball equipment to underserved communities around the world. PIFB had distributed equipment and uniforms to more than 250 communities around the United States and more than 75 countries worldwide and impacting over 200,000 children in need.
“My dad would tell a story that no matter hard it was to get baseball equipment during the Great Depression, they always found a way,” said Mr. Smalley. “When Pitch In For Baseball heard that story, they reached out to my dad, and then we connected. Pitch In For Baseball and I have a passion for kids who want to play ball, and thanks to the help of so many people who mke financial contributions or donate their used equipment, we can help kids all across the world play ball.”
As Little League celebrates its 75th Anniversary this year, the Little League Big Legacy project created a digital mosaic of Little League memories. To celebrate these memories, Little League donated $50,000 to Pitch in for Baseball, so that boys and girls in need can make their own Little League memories.
The William A. “Bill” Shea Award was established in 1987 to recognize a former Little Leaguer in Major League Baseball who best exemplifies the spirit of Little League. Consideration for selection includes both the individual’s ability and accomplishments and that person’s status as a positive role model. Mr. Shea, a former President of the Little League Foundation, is credited with bringing National League Baseball back to New York in the early 1960s, and was the namesake of the New York Met’s Shea Stadium, while also working diligently for the advancement of Little League Baseball. Previous winners include Joe Torre (2013), Tom Seaver (1989), Torii Hunter (2007), and Jason Varitek (2012).