Florida Town Finally Integrates Little Leaguers

Before 2008, Delray Beach, Florida, had a segregated Little League program.

Little leaguer with funny teeth

The two programs were finally integrated in time for the spring. As children of both races played together, a city laden with racial strife tried to follow their example.


Delray Beach, a city of 68,000, has struggled with race for decades. It remains largely segregated by neighborhoods. In 1998, the city lost its bid for an All-America City award amid judges’ questions over the city’s “intergroup relations.”

Since then, city officials have worked to improve race relations. In 2004, they formed the Mayor’s Committee on Race Relations and launched the Relationships between Authorities, Citizens and Experts initiative, or R.A.C.E., to focus on the city’s diverse communities.

[C]ombining two historically proud leagues did more to improve race relations in the city than any other effort.

Lo and behold, riots did not break out in all corners of town when the white kids and the black kids played together:

“We took two groups who love baseball and put them together,” City Commissioner Woodie McDuffie said. “And we now find out they had a tremendous experience.”

Redevelopment of Atlantic Avenue, some of which is part of the “doughnut hole,” also made the downtown more integrated.

Change came slowly to Delray Beach’s Little Leagues. Just two years ago there was no interest in combining. Still, there were small steps in that direction. There were a few black players in the National and few white players in the American. The city’s growing Hispanic population was sending players to both leagues.

Other factors pushed the leagues together. They had seen a drop in participation, with kids being drawn to other sports such as football and lacrosse.

See? A little healthy competition is good for everyone. Welcome to 2008, Delray Beach. You’ll love it here.