Former All-Star Jake Arrieta held a masterclass with a group of East London school children and explained what it takes to make it in MLB at BaseballSoftballUK’s First Pitch Festival.
The Chicago Cubs became a World Series champion in 2016, but that did not stop him from showing the next generation of Brits how to hit a home run on Hopkins’ Field in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
Nine hundred children from twenty-five different schools enjoyed a masterclass from MLB legends Arrieta and David Eckstein, as well as Chicago Cubs mascot Clarke the Cub.
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 a four-year period provides a unique opportunity to share the magic of baseball, to 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.
“It is my first time in London, it is a big deal to be part of something like this where we’re trying to grow the game,” said Arrieta, who played in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2016.
“It is something that I am passionate about, trying to get more kids involved in the sport as much as I can.
“We are mainly just trying to introduce the basics of the game to the youth, a lot of these kids do not have a lot of experience with baseball.
“So, we’re showing them the basics, just the fundamentals of throwing, catching, pitching, and hitting.
“But more importantly, we want them to have a good time doing it because baseball can be a slow game, there is a lot to learn, so we are trying to incorporate the basics, so they get excited about the game.
“Any time that we can bring in new players we’re excited, and that is exactly what we are trying to do here today.
“A lot of kids in London and other parts of the country don’t have a lot of familiarity with the game, so getting them excited about it, getting them moving around, having a good time and having a little competition while we’re doing it is a lot of fun.”
Arrieta is best known for his stunning success across two spells with the Chicago Cubs, and his former team will take on historic rivals the St. Louis Cardinals during an action-packed weekend at London Stadium, complete with unmissable entertainment and a full ballpark experience.
Those not lucky enough to have a ticket to the once-in-a-lifetime event can attend the Trafalgar Square Takeover fan festival and City Collabs which will be taking baseball beyond the ballpark.
BaseballSoftballUK’s First Pitch Festival gave the lucky school children the chance to learn five different baseball skills hitting, fielding, running, pitching and gameplay.
And Arrieta hopes the festival, the game and the legacy of the London Series can help inspire kids in the UK to pick up a baseball for years to come.
He added: “Any time that I can be involved in something like this, bring some joy to the kids or give an autograph or take a picture is great.
“It could be a small thing like today or like that that gets them involved in the game for life and makes them want to stick with it and learn more.
“It means a lot to me.”
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