Bibliophile: Let’s Play Ball with Lance Van Auken

By Robin Van Auken
The Wholehearted Author

Lance Van Auken is probably the world’s foremost expert on the history of Little League Baseball. There’s only a handful of people who may know more, or as much, as Lance. He earned this honor by being a Little League volunteer, and employee, for most of his life. He shares this knowledge as the co-author of “Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball®.”

Play Ball - Lance Van Auken of World of Little League

He attended his first Little League game as a baby in his mother’s arms, as his father coached his four older brothers at Cross Bayou Little League in Seminole (now Largo), Florida. His family was devoted to Little League, and the field there is still named for his father, Robert Van Auken. His mother, Ruth, helped in the concession stand, helped by designing the program covers. His brothers, Joel, Harry, Danny and Calvin, were his role models, and he learned how to pitch and catch and hit, but more importantly, he learned the rules of Little League.

Knowing those rules became significant and when he became too old to play ball, he umpired the game. On July 22, 1981, he became a father and his dream of becoming a manager of his son’s team became a possibility. He managed or coached or supported his son, Lance II, through all levels of Little League, from Tee Ball to Big League, sharing his love of the game. His daughter, Sarah, attended games and helped her family as a volunteer, but playing baseball wasn’t her hobby. A reader, an artist and a musician, she did perform with her school band at a Little League World Series.

He had a chance to visit he Little League Baseball World Series in 1991, as a journalist, covering a Florida baseball team who made it through the Southern Region to the championship game. In 1992, he returned as an umpire, selected to participate in the series representing the Southern Region as a volunteer. He was smitten.

The next year, he became an employee of Little League Baseball, working as an assistant director of the Southern Region, before joining the headquarters staff in Pennsylvania in 1996.  He worked in the communications department for two decades, and had many adventures, including developing Tee Ball on the South Lawn, a program that placed Little Leaguers and their families at the White House, playing 20 games for President George W. Bush.

Today, Lance is a vice president of Little League Baseball® and the executive director of the World of Little League Museum in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He, and his co-author (Robin Van Auken), are republishing their book “Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball®” with Wendy Dean Butler of The Omnibus Publishing, with a new chapter and an updated appendix.

Fans of Little League Baseball can look for “Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball®” in the spring of 2018.


“‘Play Ball!’ is a delightful walk down the storied history of Little League Baseball. For those of us who played the dreams of your youth, it brings back mighty memories. For those of us reluctant adults who still dream, it’s a wonderful reminder of what might have been.” ~ John Grisham, bestselling author

“Little League Baseball was such a huge part of my life. As a kid and as a father, the memories are, in fact, so thick that I have to brush them away from my face. Thank God for Little League Baseball and how it’s managed itself.” ~ Kevin Costner, actor, director

“It’s funny: after 40 years, I can’t remember much else about a lot of the boys I grew up with, but if you give me one of their names, I can usually remember what Little League team he played on.” ~ Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist

ABOUT THE BOOK

Play Ball! is the remarkable story of Little League Baseball, from the first diamond in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to the playing fields of Venezuela, Japan, and Poland.

On any given spring evening, 360,000 children around the world can be found on the dusty mounds and grassy fields of a Little League field. With more than four million people playing or volunteering in Little League games every year, Little League is the institutional rite of passage into the quintessential American pastime.

Little League Baseball began in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 1938, when Carl Stotz, an oil company clerk, agreed to a game of catch with his young nephews-who were too young to play organized baseball. He recalled how it felt to be left out, and promised to think of a way for the boys to have a league of their own. With the help of neighbors George and Bert Bebble, Stotz created a three-team league. After being turned down by fifty-six businesses, Carl finally convinced a lumber company, a dairy, and a pretzel maker to sponsor the teams, for $30 each. On June 6, 1939, the first Little League Baseball game was played at Park Point in Williamsport.

Play Ball! charts Little League’s history from the earliest days and shows how, in many respects, its history parallels America’s history: isolation in the beginning; rapid expansion; a civil war of sorts, followed by reconstruction; struggles over civil rights and gender equity; and foreign entanglements. A microcosm of American society, Little League reflects, and is affected by, cultural, political and historical trends.

Today, Little League is played on 12,000 fields in every U.S. state and has been played in 103 other countries on six continents. Little League also sanctions play in softball, Tee Ball, and baseball for disabled children-called the Challenger Division. The Little League Baseball World Series, played annually in Williamsport, is watched by crowds of 40,000 each year in person, and by more than ten million on ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

The authors were given full access to the Little League Baseball archives and have created a comprehensive history.Play Ball! contains appendixes including winners of all Little League Baseball and Softball World Series, a year-by-year history of Little League, countries in Little League, and lists of some of the famous people who played the game as children, including Kevin Costner, Mark McGwire, and George W. Bush.

Play Ball! will interest parents, former players and coaches, fans of Little League Baseball, general baseball enthusiasts, and anyone who has ever picked up a ball and bat.


 

Missed the show? Listen below:

 

Thank You for Listening!

Ways to share your thoughts:

Ways to show your support:

    • Leave an honest review on iTunes or Soundcloud. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.

Let’s talk books again next week!

 

Download the Audio File as an MP3

Want to listen on your own terms? Download the episode and take it with you.

 


 

Wholehearted Author with Robin Van Auken
Awesome Workbooks & Guides Are Heading Your Way

Do you enjoy listening to Robin talk about books with other writers? Are you interested in writing? Join Robin’s circle of writers and authors and you’ll get access to her Wholehearted Author Library of workbooks, checklists, guides and videos lessons. Each of these are designed to walk you step-by-step through a specific project encountered by the typical new author. You are welcome to use these resources to help you hurdle the barriers to success on your Author’s Journey.

Wholehearted Author with Robin Van Auken

 


CATCH THE WEST WIND

Add WEST WIND to your library!

Because free writing resources from Robin Van Auken,
the Wholehearted Author, are not enough!

Free book: West WindIf you love a good mystery, a romantic whodunit that will surprise you, then WEST WIND is a great addition to your ebook library.

West Wind is my third novel as an author of Contemporary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller, and Romance.  It’s FREE too, when you join my exclusive Readers Group. Members of the Readers Group receive free novels, invitations to read advance copies, as well as illustrated character profiles and behind-the-scenes articles about Eaton and its quirky residents.

Join today and download your free book, and as a special thank you, you’ll receive a SECOND FREE BOOK tomorrow! The giving goes on and on when you become my fan.

Download West Wind

Author: Robin Van Auken

Share This Post On