MLB and BaseballSoftballUK brought the excitement of America’s favourite pastime to the children of East London to cement the legacy of this weekend’s London Series clash between the Cubs and Cardinals.
On Thursday, MLB’s First Pitch Festival took over the Olympic Park as 900 children from twenty-five different schools enjoyed a masterclass from MLB legends Jake Arrieta and David Eckstein.
Then on Friday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred and Major League icons Albert Pujols, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard visited Raneleigh Primary School to announce the legacy gift of a baseball square to help develop East London’s next generation of sporting stars.
Baseball is a hidden secret in the UK, followed by enthusiastic night owls and weekend warriors, and played by a small but resolute community and that is something BaseballSoftballUK are looking to change.
Hosting six MLB regular season games in the UK, across four years provides a unique opportunity to share the magic of baseball, catapult the sport’s popularity and exponentially increase the number of baseball and softball players throughout the country.
BaseballSoftballUK aims to increase participation by making the sports even more inclusive, improving the overall playing experience, and driving elite performance of the national squads by working with and through National Governing Bodies the British Softball Federation and the British Baseball Federation.
And BaseballSoftballUK CEO John Boyd can’t believe the breadth of events taking place to celebrate the MLB World Tour: London Series.
He said: “The are so many things going on across London and across the country as part of the MLB London Series.
“This example of Raneleigh Primary School’s new baseball square is just a really nice, localised example of that.
“To have a school able to connect to the London Stadium just a couple of miles away and to have a legacy facility here will mean so much to the local community, the students, the school and the whole trust around it.
“It is one of the examples of how we can bring baseball into this country so that it is successful.
“People can turn up at the games, they can turn up at the various festivals, they can turn up at Trafalgar Square this weekend, they can turn up at the games they can turn up at the various festivals, London is baseball-a-fied this weekend, and it is a really special moment for British baseball.”
The Cubs and the Cardinals are historic rivals and will go head-to-head on an action-packed weekend at London Stadium, complete with unmissable entertainment and a full ballpark experience.
And after announcing a significant donation to develop Raneleigh Primary School’s new outdoor play area MLB commissioner Rob Manfred emphasised his hope that this week would inspire the next generation of baseball fanatics.
He said: “We love baseball and one of the reasons we take our MLB clubs to places they don’t normally play like London is because we want to grow this game around the world.
“The way you grow a sport is you start at the bottom, and you start with young people, and you get young people playing the game.
“So, all the students here are important to the future of our sport, we know for baseball to be popular here we must get kids playing the game here in London and across England.
“To make that happen MLB is making a $25,000 donation to build a permanent baseball diamond here so that these kids and kids in the community will have somewhere to play the greatest game in the world.”
Across both days, East London students took part in a variety of activities as part of MLB First Pitch.
MLB First Pitch introduces baseball to young people across the UK, giving them an opportunity to try a new sport, learn the fundamentals of baseball and have fun playing.
The children attending Thursday’s First Pitch Festival experienced the five fundamental baseball skills of hitting, fielding, running, pitching and gameplay, BaseballSoftballUK’s London Series Legacy manager Jon Rye encouraged kids across the country to give the sport a go.
He added: ”It is a good opportunity to get young people enjoying baseball and softball and having some fun in the sun with some talented stars around us.
“MLB First Pitch is a great introduction programme in primary schools, it is suited to their ability and their age.
“Baseball and softball are inclusive sports where anybody can play, they can enjoy it and it is a mixed gender sport.
“This is a chance to engage a new audience and a real opportunity to encourage and enthuse young people to play baseball and softball.
“Having the MLB London Series in town is a great firework moment for our sport.”
BaseballSoftballUK is the national development and performance agency for baseball and softball in the United Kingdom and the accountable body for safeguarding baseball and softball, and for government investment from UK Sport and Sport England into the sport – visit baseballsoftballuk.com