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Manfred, mayors renew Play Ball partnership

Boys and Girls Clubs of America to participate in youth initiatives
MLB.com @JamalCollier

WASHINGTON -- Since its creation in 2015, "Play Ball Summer" continued to grow into one of Major League Baseball's most successful youth initiatives by working in conjunction with the United States Conference of Mayors. Last year, a record number of mayors hosted a record number of children at Play Ball Summer events in nearly all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Commissioner Rob Manfred called the partnership between MLB and the U.S. Conference of Mayors one of the best decisions he has made during his tenure, as he announced on Wednesday the partnership will be renewed through 2020. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the official charity of MLB, will also be involved in MLB's renewed efforts with the mayors.

WASHINGTON -- Since its creation in 2015, "Play Ball Summer" continued to grow into one of Major League Baseball's most successful youth initiatives by working in conjunction with the United States Conference of Mayors. Last year, a record number of mayors hosted a record number of children at Play Ball Summer events in nearly all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Commissioner Rob Manfred called the partnership between MLB and the U.S. Conference of Mayors one of the best decisions he has made during his tenure, as he announced on Wednesday the partnership will be renewed through 2020. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the official charity of MLB, will also be involved in MLB's renewed efforts with the mayors.

More on Play Ball

"From Day One, one of my most important priorities was to increase the engagement of young people with what we regard to be the greatest game in the world," Manfred said in D.C. on Wednesday at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting.

Video: Former Angels GM Tony Reagins talks Play Ball Summer

Play Ball Summer, which is a part of MLB's Play Ball initiative, puts on community events meant to engage citizens, families and city departments to participate and connect them to baseball and softball. Play Ball events have become MLB's signature youth engagement activity. Since Play Ball Summer's inception, hundreds of mayors have hosted more than 60,000 kids at these events in their communities, which often include fun activities such as playing catch, running the bases and bat and ball games.

Adding the Boys & Girls Clubs to the fold should only strengthen participation, considering the groups will sometimes collaborate and co-host events with local mayors.

"What's great about the Boys & Girls Clubs is they have an audience that's already captivated and already engaged," said Tony Reagins, MLB's senior vice president of youth programs. "The mayors are going to be doing the events, and the Boys & Girls Clubs are easy partners because they have the kids to fill those events and get more kids playing baseball."

The partnership should continue to grow the games of baseball and softball even more during the next few years as participation increases. Baseball and softball combined to rank as the most participated team sport in the U.S. in 2016, according to the annual Topline Participation Report produced by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.

"That's what's exciting," Reagins said. "The mayors are really excited about this addition and bringing it back to their communities. The mayors are the backbones of their communities. They're city leaders. And they are well-connected to most organizations in their cities. It makes a lot of sense that that synergy created between the three groups, getting more young people playing our game, is starting to become real."

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.