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08/22/08 10:45 AM ET

Moms take spotlight at World Series

League recognizes female contributions with yearly award

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- Abby Contini stood near the pitcher's mound inside Howard J. Lamade Stadium, cheered on by the packed crowd at the Little League World Series, as she prepared to throw out the game's ceremonial first pitch on Thursday night.

She reared back and fired.

Applauses rained on Contini, and she smiled.

But she wasn't there to soak up the public's adulation. She was there, thanks to her son Cory, to accept a more meaningful honor: "Mom of the Year Award."

Given annually by Little League Baseball Inc., the award recognizes the contribution of moms in a sport that, traditionally, has had fathers as its guiding force. Increasingly, moms have played significant roles in helping youngsters like Cory enjoy the Little League experience.

"At first, it was kind of weird," Cory said of his mother's involvement with Little League. "But then, after a while, I got used to it."

Not only did he get used to it, 11-year-old Cory also welcomed having his mother involved in Dover (Ohio) Little League Baseball. She contributed everywhere, he said. She played chauffeur; she manned the concession stands at ballgames; she organized fund-raisers.

Name it, and Abby stepped in and did it.

Little League World Series

Her work got noticed, and Cory didn't want it to go unrewarded.

Just before Mother's Day, he brought his mother's tireless efforts on behalf of the boys and girls in Dover Little League to the attention of Little League officials. He wrote an essay nominating his mother for "Mom of the Year."

In a way, Cory's letter amounted to a love letter. He had the letter framed and gave the original to her for Mother's Day.

"That was a wonderful gift for my 11-year-old son to put into writing," said Abby, a former principal who now help train student teachers. "I thought that was it, that was gift enough for me."

She had more coming, because about a month after Mother's Day, Abby received a letter from Little League International that told her that she had won the award, making her its 18th recipient.

The selection still surprises her, particularly because she didn't grow up a baseball fan and never expected to get so involved in the sport.

In her childhood, her family followed football.

"We're die-hard Browns fans," she said. "I really wasn't that big a baseball fan until I married my husband. He loves baseball."

Then Cory came along, and now, his mother said, she might like baseball better than football.

"It's so exciting to watch the little kids play it," she said. "It's just a great, great outing in our community. It brings people out and people into our park. It's just a great way to socialize and have people out in our community."

Initially, she got involved in the sport because of Cory. She wanted to be active in his life, and he loved sports -- all sports. So she became a fan of those sports, too.

Yet Abby pointed to reasons beyond Cory and his close friends for her gung-ho approach to Little League Baseball. Youngsters need opportunities in life, she said. That's a philosophy that her career as an educator had instilled in her.

Not once did she shy away from taking on duties with the Dover program, even if men had traditionally run Little League Baseball in the town.

"I've always had a strong personality," said Abby, whose house abuts the Little League fields in Dover. "I've always felt like I've been a leader. I just kind of jumped in when they needed help. I just always felt like I could make a difference."

And she did.

Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.