OCEANSIDE, Calif.—The ping of an aluminum bat; the pop of a glove; snow cones after the game. These are the sights and sounds of Little League, which has been teaching kids how to play baseball for more than 75 years. But Larry Burch, facility maintenance technician for U-Haul Company of Oceanside, says Little League isn’t a baseball program.
“It’s a leadership program,” asserted Burch, who was appointed to the Little League International Advisory Board in 2013. “Baseball is just the avenue we use to achieve the goals of Little League, including our motto: Character, Loyalty and Courage. We try to pass on those three characteristics to the kids.”
Burch pointed to one specific example from 2012 that represents everything Little League is about. A team from Uganda became the first African representative in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., but coming so far from such a poor country was quite a burden for the players’ families. (Little League pays for the players to make the trip.)
“A team from our district in Petaluma, Calif., was raising money to help pay for their families to go to Williamsport,” Burch began. “When they reached their fundraising goal, the team said they wanted to continue raising money and give the extra to the Ugandan team. Things like that occur in Little League all the time.”
Little League is a passion for Burch. He played Little League baseball as a boy, and when he had sons of his own, he got involved on the administrative level. He’s been a volunteer with Little League for more than 20 years, working his way up the ranks from his local league, to district administrator, to his current role as a member of the Little League International Advisory Board. His three-year term started in October 2013, and like most people involved in Little League—from coaches to umpires to administrators—Burch is a volunteer.
“My major function is overseeing the 16 leagues in my district, which covers northern San Diego County,” Burch explained. “We run the district tournaments, which lead to the state and regional tournaments. Every summer, each region sends one team to Williamsport for the Little League World Series, which is broadcast on ESPN.”
Speaking of broadcasting, Burch has done that too. For about 20 years, he did the play-by-play of regional tournaments on the radio.
“That was a lot of fun,” Burch emphasized. “Stations in the areas of the teams involved could pick up the broadcast and follow their team. In 2012, I decided to let someone younger take that over, though.”
Walking away from the radio booth didn’t mean taking a step back from his Little League involvement, however. He remains very active in his local leagues, in addition to his responsibilities as a member of the advisory board. He hopes this capacity allows him to pass on his leadership skills to the millions of Little Leaguers around the world who dream of getting to Williamsport.