Each year, when late summer arrives, a unique collection of dedicated Little League® volunteers arrive at Little League International with a singular charge — assure all Little League Baseball® World Series players, coaches, and managers have an unforgettable experience while in Williamsport.
This special company of people, officially known as “Team Hosts,” become the team chaperones. They are with the teams so much through the 11-day tournament that quite often the players and coaches refer to them as their own family.
The concept of Team Hosts originated with Little League Founder Carl E. Stotz in 1947 after he and his wife, Grayce, and fellow Little League board member, Oliver Fawcett, and his wife, Helen, visited a nearby Little League field for a game. Mr. Fawcett suggested arranging a game between Little League teams from Mr. Stotz’s league and the nearby league. Soon thereafter evolved a tournament concept that included all known Little Leaguers and became the inspiration for the modern-day Little League Baseball World Series.
Mr. Stotz and the Little League Board of Directors christened the event the “Little League National Tournament,” even though of the 12 teams participating only one team was from outside of Central Pennsylvania. Mr. Stotz borrowed the Team Host idea – local volunteers assigned to specific teams to make them feel welcome — from the national Soapbox Derby in Akron, Ohio.
Long-time Team Host, Paul Weaver, who volunteered as a World Series Team Host for 44 years, referred to his contemporaries as, “Little League’s Ambassadors of Good Will.” The late Mr. Weaver was the patriarch of this fraternity for so many years, that along with his partner, the late Fred Plankenhorn, collectively had nearly 90 years of experience. Mr. Plankenhorn once described the host role simply as, “looking after the team the whole time they are not on the field.”
Each year, the Team Hosts are instrumental in making sure everything behind the scenes is taken care of for each of the 20 participating teams during their time at the World Series, from coordinating laundry and meals to managing media requests and scheduling practices.
“Year after year, the Little League Baseball World Series provides hundreds of children with an experience like no other, but none of that would be possible if it wasn’t for the dedication, commitment, and support that our volunteer Team Hosts provide,” said Sam Ranck, Little League Director of League Development and the Challenger Division, who oversees the coordination of Team Hosts each summer. “From veteran hosts who have come back for decades, to a group of newcomers joining us this year, every one of these volunteers plays a vital role in making the Little League experience memorable for our participants, and we are incredibly thankful for everything they do.”
Traditionally, Team Hosts are paired up directly with a specific team for the duration of the tournament, with others designated as utility hosts who assist in a variety of distinct roles to ensure a safe and memorable experience for all the participants.
Each summer, these volunteers are assigned to the teams they will be hosting by way of a blind draw. Baseballs with the names of the regions represented are placed in a ball bucket and a member of each two-person pairing pulls a ball. The ball drawn is the team each duo will host for the duration of the tournament.
This tradition has such meaning to the teams, that often years after their memorable summer has ended, members of the teams remain in contact with the Team Hosts. Whenever a team reunion is planned the Team Hosts are often on the invite list.
It is all about fun, games, and friendships at the World Series. Expansion of this year’s tournament field has yielded the rare opportunity for even more volunteers to become Little League Ambassadors of Good Will while budding special branches on these extended family trees.
NOTE: This story is a piece of the 75-Part Content Series celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Little League Baseball World Series in August 2022. Join in on the celebration by using #LLWS75 on social media and by tagging @LittleLeague on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. For more information on the celebration, please visit LittleLeague.org/75.