James Beckum did not have a background in youth sports, but he knew baseball. In the early 1960s, there were few recreational opportunities for the children of Milwaukee’s inner city.
To even use the public ballfields, you needed an adult to reserve them. So, in 1963, some children approached Reverend E.B. Philips for help. Reverend Philips, in turn, asked Mr. Beckum, a former Negro League player and established participant in Milwaukee County’s adult leagues, to reserve the fields.
What started with a simple field reservation turned into a life in youth sports for Mr. Beckum, who decided to charter a Little League® in his community the next year. More than 50 years later, the Beckum-Stapleton Little League (BSLL) is still thriving, with Mr. Beckum still devoting his time to the league. It is because of Mr. Beckum’s dedication and consistent care that he was chosen as the recipient of the 2015 Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award.
With the support and sponsorship of four local churches, the league was formed with about 60 players. Today, more than 300 play in the league, which is now a member of the Little League Urban Initiative, and Mr. Beckum has become an icon of youth sports in the city.
“I love what I do,” said Mr. Beckum. “I have a lot of fun seeing the kids play and grow.”
Created in 2005, the Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award has recognized a volunteer involved with a Little League program participating in the Urban Initiative. Howard Paster was the President of the Little League Foundation from 2002 until his passing in 2011. Paster’s two children, Tim and Emily, worked with the Little League to help create recognition of their parents’ dedication to the Little League Urban Initiative.
“There is no greater need for dedicated, passionate volunteers than in our urban communities,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “Mr. Beckum’s lifetime commitment to the game of baseball in the city of Milwaukee has allowed countless children to learn valuable life lessons on the field and off. Mr. Beckum has been helping to provide meaning Little League experiences for the children in his community long before the Urban Initiative was established, and we are honored to recognize his achievements with 2015 Howard and Gail Paster Little League Urban Initiative Volunteer of the Year Award.”
The Urban Initiative, established in 1999, supplies the financial and education help to local leagues to help give all children, from any economic background, the ability to play baseball and softball.
“I was really surprised,” said Mr. Beckum when he learned he received the award. “I wasn’t expecting it… It is a big gift.”
Ms. Beckum will be recognized at a breakfast and during an on-field ceremony at the 2015 Little League Baseball® World Series.
Over the course of 10 days, 32 games will be played in the 69th Little League Baseball World Series, concluding with the Little League Baseball World Series Championship Game, which is scheduled for 3 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 30. For more information on the 2015 Little League Baseball World Series, visit LLBWS.org.