Major League Baseball today announced that Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) has become an official partner of the 'PLAY BALL' initiative, the sport's largest collective effort to encourage young people to participate in baseball- or softball-related activities. Through this partnership, MiLB will support the second annual 'PLAY BALL WEEKEND,' including spearheading the effort's official launch with the Oklahoma City Dodgers on June 2, as well as 'PLAY BALL SUMMER' with the U.S. Conference of Mayors in hosting more than 200 youth and community-focused events throughout the United States and Puerto Rico this summer (June-August).
"We are thrilled to welcome Minor League Baseball and its 160 Clubs as official supporters of the 'PLAY BALL' initiative," said Tony Reagins, Senior Vice President of Youth Programs, Major League Baseball. "As one of the most family-friendly experiences in professional sports, Minor League Clubs are natural partners in this effort, especially in parallel to the fun and creative ways they engage their millions of fans. This is an important step toward reaching more young people in communities outside our direct Major League markets."
"Through Minor League Baseball's involvement in PLAY BALL, our organization and its 160 clubs will play a central role in growing the great game of baseball for many years to come," said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O'Conner. "MiLB's participation in 'PLAY BALL Weekend' further reinforces our role as a community champion, where we can pass our love for the game on to the next generation and build a foundation at an early age. Minor League Baseball is proud to collaborate with our partners at Major League Baseball on this important and timely initiative."
Minor League Baseball is joining the second annual 'PLAY BALL WEEKEND' to now make the campaign both an MLB- and MiLB-wide effort to engage young baseball fans and celebrate the continued support of youth participation in baseball and softball. PLAY BALL WEEKEND is officially scheduled for June 3 and 4, however, Major and Minor League Clubs not at home that weekend will host activities at another date. On June 2, the Oklahoma City Dodgers will help launch the effort at their ballpark (Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark) by hosting hundreds of kids, along with MLB and MiLB representatives, in a signature 'PLAY BALL' event that will highlight the fun, casual ways to play baseball and softball.
MiLB also will once again support 'PLAY BALL SUMMER,' the third annual initiative with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to hold more than 200 youth- and community-focused PLAY BALL events throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. Where appropriate, MiLB Clubs will link with Mayors to participate or help host these events.
Minor League Baseball will have a presence at the 2017 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard in Miami. MiLB representatives and players participating in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game will attend various components of 'PLAY BALL Park,' an outdoor space for programming partners of MLB to provide fun, engaging and educational activities for youth baseball and softball players and their families -- all in the backdrop of the Midsummer Classic. Major League Baseball will also commemorate this partnership by hosting a special 'PLAY BALL' event on Saturday, June 10 in Salt Lake City, Utah, at Smith's Ballpark, the home of the Salt Lake Bees (Triple-A Affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels). In August, MLB and the MLBPA will host the "MLB Little League Classic" between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals at a renovated BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field, the home of the Short Season-A™ Williamsport Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League.
In 2015, Major League Baseball launched the "PLAY BALL" initiative as the sport's largest collective effort to encourage young people to participate in baseball- or softball-related activities, including formal leagues, special events and casual forms of play. PLAY BALL events have become MLB's signature youth engagement activity during the professional and amateur baseball and softball calendar, particularly in connection with key dates from Spring Training, through the MLB Championship Season and into the Postseason and World Series. PLAY BALL aims to highlight the fun and community-focused natures of the game at the Major League, professional, amateur and youth levels. In addition to flagship partnerships with USA Baseball and USA Softball, PLAY BALL is also supported by all 30 MLB Clubs, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and MLB Corporate Partners Chevrolet, Scotts and Nathan's Famous. In 2016, MLB Network launched Play Ball, a weekly player interview and demonstration show geared toward kids. In the program, MLB stars, including Bryce Harper, Dexter Fowler, Francisco Lindor and Anthony Rizzo, have discussed their experiences reaching the Major Leagues and shared tips in one-on-one demonstrations and conversations with MLB Network analysts. Currently in its second season, Play Ball airs on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. ET and is available on multiple platforms, including MLB Network, MLB At Bat, MLB.com and Facebook.
On May 18, MLB announced that baseball and softball combined to rank as the most participated team sports in the United States in 2016 (25 million participants), according to the annual Topline Participation Report produced by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). Overall baseball participation increased by 7.7 percent and slow-pitch softball participation increased by 8.1 percent in 2016, with casual participation in both baseball and slow-pitch softball showing the highest growth. In 2016, casual participation in baseball rose by 18.1 percent and slow-pitch softball increased by 12.4 percent. Casual participation in baseball and slow-pitch softball is up 34 percent over the last five years. When combined, baseball and softball (fast-and slow-pitch) have more casual participants than any other sport (10.25 million).