The annual International Sports Heritage Association (ISHA) conference came to Williamsport, Pa., Oct. 21-23, and the 77 attendees embarked on a journey inside the World of Little League®, and emerged with a keen appreciation for central Pennsylvania’s sports heritage, and why Little League has been a world-wide phenomenon for more than 75 years. In the 45 years of the ISHA conference, Williamsport is the smallest community to host this event.
Throughout the three-day event, the professional staff at the World of Little League Museum headed by Lance Van Auken (Little League Vice President and the Museum Executive Director), Janice Ogurcak (Museum Director of Public Programming and Outreach), and Adam Thompson (Museum Curator), educated the eclectic group of sports museum and organization professionals to the mission of Little League. “We were honored that ISHA chose Williamsport for its 45th annual conference,” said Mr. Van Auken. “Preparations for this event began in spring 2014, to ensure that delegates from around the world could learn, and be entertained, here at the home of Little League Baseball and Softball.”
The former Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum, originally opened in 1982, was re-envisioned through a $4.3 million renovation project, and in June of 2013 was re-opened as the World of Little League: Peter J. McGovern Little League Museum and Official Store. The diversity of exhibits in the museum, a tour of the Little League International complex, and collection of keynote speakers at the conference’s different events showcased the wide-spread influence Little League has in communities around the globe.
The Little League theme resonated throughout the conference, with most events held at the Historic Genetti Hotel and Suites in downtown Williamsport. Montoursville Little League graduate Mike Mussina, a member of the Little League International Board of Directors, took questions and shared stories from his 18-year Major League Baseball career with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. Later that evening, former Little Leaguer®, and astronaut Dr. Story Musgrave gave an impassioned presentation that thrilled the contingent.
Mr. Mussina and Dr. Musgrave are enshrined in the World of Little League Museum Hall of Excellence, which occupies one of six galleries in the 10,000-square-foot facility. The two criteria for being considered for the museum’s Hall of Excellence are: 1. Having played in a chartered Little League, and; 2. Having become a recognized role model.
At the final event of the conference, two-time Little League Baseball® World Series manager and ESPN personality Dave Belisle engaged the room with the accounts of his life as Little League parent and volunteer.
“We’re grateful to all of our speakers for their help in making this conference such a success,” said Mrs. Ogurcak. “We also want to thank all of the presenters at each of the sessions, where they shared a vast amount of knowledge on a wide variety of subjects. The event’s sponsors and vendors were invaluable to us as well.”
The 2016 ISHA conference will convene in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.