Forty years ago, George Springer Jr. had the opportunity to compete in the 1976 Little League Baseball® World Series, with his teammates from Forestville (Conn.) Little League. That experience evolved into a lifetime commitment to the Little League® program, and, along with his wife, Laura, the Springers became dedicated volunteers at Walicki Little League in New Britain, Conn., where their three children, softball standouts Lena, Nicole, and Houston Astros right fielder, George III, all played.
The Springers were recognized as the 2016 George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year with an on-field ceremony at this year’s Championship Game at the 2016 Little League Baseball® World Series.
“Through it all, working with the kids in the backyard, coaching them, everything, it is the values that you can bring home at the end of the day,” said Mr. Springer. “There is nothing greater than the Little League opportunity and the positive impact it can have on young people. It was a privilege for us to be involved, and to take those lessons that we learned in our youth, and as we navigated through our lives, pay it forward.”
READ: Meet the Springers
Mr. Springer started coaching his son, George, the oldest of their three children, in Tee Ball and continued through his son’s little league career in minor, majors and junior league baseball. Inspired by his parents’ commitment to public service and the man who introduced him Little League in the 1970s and served as his Little League World Series coach (Bob Watson, former Connecticut District 5 Administrator), Mr. Springer answered the call to become the Walicki Little League President in 1997. Mrs. Springer, who also served as a coach, played an invaluable role in George’s development and support of the league. With the involvement of the entire family, the Springers helped grow the league and make it an exemplary program, focusing on teaching life lessons as much as fundamental skills. Mr. Springer also served as an Assistant District Administrator and coordinated the first 9- and 10-year-old baseball and softball tournaments in Connecticut. From 2000 to 2003, Mr. Springer also served and on the Little League International Advisory Board.
“Little League would not be the most well-respected youth sports organization in the world without the dedication of the millions of Little League parents,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “Over the years, I have gotten to know George and Laura well, with George serving on the Little League International Advisory Board. Their steadfast commitment to their family, the Little League program, and ensuring that all the children in their community had positive on-field and off-field Little League experiences is second to none. We are pleased that we can recognize their dedication, and honor their entire family at the Little League Baseball World Series.”
In addition to their dedication to the Walicki Little League, the Springers, both of who were college athletes at the University of Connecticut, where George was a rugby and football player and Laura competed on the gymnastics team, raised three Little Leaguers®, who have all become standouts in baseball and softball.
George III was selected 11th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, after an All-American career at the University of Connecticut. He was also a member of the 2010 Team USA College Team. He is currently in his third season with the Houston Astros, as their starting right fielder, and, in 2015, helped his team advance to their first MLB Playoff appearance in 10 years.
Nicole Springer, currently an assistant softball coach at Southern Connecticut State University, was a 4-year All-Conference softball player during her collegiate career, graduating from Central Connecticut State University in 2013. In 2012, she represented her mother’s native Puerto Rico, participating on their national softball team.
The youngest Springer, Lena, is following in her big sister’s footsteps. A pitcher for the Ohio State Buckeyes softball team that advance to the NCAA Super Regionals, Lena will be representing Team Puerto Rico for the second year this summer.
“Little League was my first love,” said Lena, who will be a senior next year. “I had dreams of being where I am now when I played Little League Softball, and when I go through a tough workout, I think of me as a 7-year-old, wanting to be where I am, and it pushes me through. If it wasn’t for Little League, I would not have the opportunities I have now to travel the country, and meet so many people. Little League is so much more than just putting a kid out there with a glove and bat, it’s about development as a player and person. Little League has had a tremendous impact on my life, and I am forever grateful for the experience.”
The George and Barbara Bush Little League Parents of the Year Award was established in 1980 and is presented annually to the parents of a MLB player who were actively involved in their son’s Little League experience. The award is named in honor of the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, and former First Lady Barbara Bush. Both were Little League volunteers during their children’s early years in Midland, Texas, and continue to support Little League today.
More than the recognition of one set of parents annually, the George and Barbara Bush Parents of the Year Award is designed to be a symbolic recognition of the millions of mothers and fathers who dedicate their time and resources to ensure their children have a meaningful Little League experience.