World of Little League Museum interactive for kids, parents alike

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WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- It's not often one sees a kid running at top speed through a museum or jumping up and smacking its wall. That's usually a one-way ticket out the door.

Not at the World of Little League Museum. And Little League families and kids are hitting the newly completed museum on the Little League International Complex along Route 15 in South Williamsport.

The idea behind the refurbished museum is it to be intensely interactive for kids and parents alike. So while there are the traditional artifacts -- 289 of them -- that adults can see and glean information from, there is cutting-edge technology and active space for the younger crowd, said Lance Van Auken, vice president of Little League International and museum executive director.

Jack Veith, 7, of Franklin, N.J., was almost a blur as he ran from home plate to first base on the museum's track. A timer at the end shows each runner's time.

"That is my favorite part of the museum," Jack huffed afterward. He and his dad, Scott, and grandpa, Joe Gaydos, have come to the museum during Little League for four years, but these renovations hit a home run with them. They pack in all they can with the trips, stopping over at the minor league games, too.

Scott Veith grew up playing sports and passed that love on to Jack, who also plays football, basketball and swims. His favorite? "It depends on what season it is," Jack said.

Next to the running track is a wall with baseballs placed from 5 to 8 feet high, challenging museum-goers to jump highest.

Jack encouraged Grandpa Joe to experience the 3D catching interactive game, where recordings of Mike Mussina, a former Little League baseball pitcher, and a softball pitcher throw balls. Its impact is felt in an umpire's face mask the participant wears.

"This is really familiar," said Mr. Gaydos, who is an umpire for high school softball.

The family sent a message to their hometown Little League team at the Global Connections Touch Table, powered by Active Network. The top of the table has an aqua glow, similar to an aquarium. Its touch screen allows users to play the Global Connections Challenge, an interactive trivia game about Little League teams.

What's unique about the table -- and the museum -- is that users can find any Little League team in the world, all 6,883 of them, Mr. Van Auken said.

It's the only place in the world where users can do a search for all the leagues, he said.

By touching the team on the screen's globe, users can send messages to them. The teams' photographs and information pops up, and each of the photos can be expanded by touch.

An important aspect of the museum is that it shows famous people who started out as Little League Baseball players, such as former President George W. Bush and actor Tom Selleck, Mr. Van Auken said.

Gregory Patti, 12, of Dillsburg, said his favorite part was a video that showed kids his age playing baseball.

"I got to see how they made it when they grew up," Gregory said. He plays baseball and is going into the teen level of Little League next year.

Some Little League Baseball players and families were inspired by the museum. Anissa Hamilton, of Perth, Australia, is the mother of Maverick Hamilton, 12, a utility player on the Australia Region team. "We saw the highlights of last year, and I want to come back next year to see us!" she said.

Danny Gray, 12, of Dillsburg, said the best part was Babe Ruth's old jersey, complete with his worn-out socks.

The museum tracks the evolution of Little League accessibility for girls. In 1950, the first girl played in Little League. In 1989, the first woman umpired for Little League. The first woman coached Little League in 1993.

The whole idea of the museum, Mr. Van Auken said, is to demonstrate the importance of Little League Baseball and its influences.

"Once people come out of the museum, first, they'll see if they don't have a Little League team in their community, they'll want one. Second, if they do have a Little League, [they'll] add to it," Mr. Van Auken said.

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