Who We Are
Robin and Lance Van Auken are a professional communications team with a combined 60-plus years of experience. Robin is the owner and chief executive officer of Hands on Heritage. She is an author, an educator, and a registered professional archaeologist, a skillset she uses every day as a cultural heritage and communication specialist. She enjoys working on projects, large and small, in the field and in the office.
Lance is an adviser, contributing counsel to Hands on Heritage. He oversees the day-to-day operations of the World of Little League: Peter J. McGovern Museum and Official Store, a 22,000-square foot museum newly renovated and dedicated to preserving the history of the world’s largest organized youth sports program, and to providing a key educational asset to the children and families of Central Pennsylvania and visitors from around the world.
Lance and Robin attend the Cardinals-Pirates game at BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field for the MLB Little League Classic.
Lance Van Auken
Lance directed every detail of the $4.4 million project, from architectural and construction aspects to selection of graphics and artifact mounting. For more than a year, he collaborated with Cambridge 7 Associates of Cambridge, Mass., architect and designer of the new museum, as well as the media provider, Cortina Productions, and the exhibit fabricator, D&P Inc., to create the world-class museum. The World of Little League museum project remained on schedule and under budget.
As its Executive Director, he leads Little League’s efforts to publicize the new museum through traditional and new media. In his previous role with Little League International, he led the communications efforts, and was responsible for a staff of professionals who created all print, Internet, social media and video productions for Little League — emphasizing the education of millions of children in the program, as well as adults. He produced and directed a variety of short films on specific educational topics for Little League, for in-house and worldwide distribution in several languages.
Want to know more about Lance’s work with the museum? Listen to this WRAK radio interview >>>
Lance served for 12 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, first as a Military Policeman. Later, as an Army Journalist, he covered U.S. Military operations in Panama and Alaska. His father, unable to join the U.S. Army because of medical problems, joined the British Royal Air Force instead, spending part of World War II helping to defend the United Kingdom. Lance and Robin’s son attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and served numerous combat tours as a Paratrooper, Ranger, and Special Forces Operator (Green Beret).
One of many educational projects Lance spearheaded included a publication for volunteers and a parents on identifying potential child sex offenders. He worked closely with the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in producing frank information on how to protect children from this type of abuse.
He also served as the chief spokesperson for Little League for more than 15 years. His guest appearances include stints on The Today Show, CNN, Outside the Lines, BBC, Al Jazeera, Nightline, PBS, MSNBC and other outlets. He has been quoted in hundreds of newspapers and magazines worldwide.
From 2001 through 2008, Lance was the liaison for Little League International to The White House and President George W. Bush’s Tee Ball on the South Lawn initiative. During that time, 20 Little League Tee Ball games were played at the White House under his direction, with President Bush attending each game.
He served for 17 years on the Little League Rules Committee, and is the author of all rules enacted in Little League from 1996 to 2013, including a 13-page rule regarding the first use of video replay at any level of baseball. This rule has been employed successfully at the Little League Baseball World Series for several years.
He led Little League’s involvement in the production of “Mickey,” a film by author John Grisham, directed by Hugh Wilson.
Lance co-authored (with Robin Van Auken) “Play Ball – The Story of Little League Baseball,” chronicling the history of Little League, published by Penn State University Press in 2001. The book was re-released in 2004 as a companion to the PBS documentary, “Small Ball,” which followed a team from Aptos, Calif., from the local level to the Little League Baseball World Series. Now in its second printing, the book was released in 2018 by The Omnibus Publishing.
Prior to Little League, Lance was a professional sports reporter and worked for the Tampa Tribune and the Clearwater Sun, covering various pro, collegiate and high school sports. His beats included NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball Spring Training, horse racing, and sailing.
Lance attended St. Petersburg College (FL) majoring in communications, and attended and graduated from the U.S. Department of Defense Information School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana.
Robin Van Auken
Robin instructs at Lycoming College, teaching in both the archaeology/religion and communications departments. She has directed multi-year archaeological projects, working with dozens of volunteers and educating thousands of visitors. As an archaeologist, she has years of museum experience, working as a curator and educator with both science centers and historical societies.
She is the mother of a former Army Special Forces Operator (Green Beret), the daughter of a Marine Gunnery Sergeant, and sister of both Army and Naval enlistees.
In 2015, she added underwater archaeology and PADI scuba training to her toolkit, enabling her to investigate maritime archaeology sites. Areas of focus are prehistoric and historic riverine sites along the West Branch of the Susquehanna.
She is a long-time member of Northcentral Chapter 8, Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, having served as a general member, a director, a vice president and president during the past 20 years. Other professional organizations include the Society for Historical Archaeology, Register of Professional Archaeology, the Nautical Archaeology Society and the American Anthropological Association.
In addition, she has 30+ years as a writer and editor, working for daily and weekly newspapers in Florida and Pennsylvania. She is the author and co-author of 10 books on regional history, including “Play Ball! The Story of Little League Baseball.”
She also writes fiction, both contemporary and historical, which combine elements of several genres, including adventure, suspense, thriller and romance.
Cultural Heritage Specialties: Researching, writing reports, museum curation, cultural consultation, conducting oral histories, videotaping interviews, instructing, organizing public archaeology digs, overseeing field schools, historic and prehistoric site survey.
Communication Specialties: Writing, editing, researching, interviewing, instructing, organizing workshops, developing website content, strategic marketing plans, app development, social media organizational plans, public relations, video production, graphic design, and most activities within general print and digital communications.
Educational Specialties: Experience developing curricula for for students of all ages. Confident speaker for groups, small and large. Experience mentoring and advising students, and overseeing independent projects and internships.
Robin at the Metropolitan Art Museum