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Bucs, Cubs to match up in 2019 LL Classic

MLB.com @MannyOnMLB

Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association and Little League International jointly announced the date and participants for the 2019 MLB Little League Classic presented by GEICO on Sunday night. The Cubs and Pirates will play in the third annual event, which will take place on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pa.

The game will air nationally that evening on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" and ESPN Radio at 7 p.m. ET. The Little League Classic, along with the June 13 matchup between the Royals and Tigers in Omaha, Neb., will make up the inaugural GEICO Summer Series.

Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association and Little League International jointly announced the date and participants for the 2019 MLB Little League Classic presented by GEICO on Sunday night. The Cubs and Pirates will play in the third annual event, which will take place on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019, at Historic Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pa.

The game will air nationally that evening on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" and ESPN Radio at 7 p.m. ET. The Little League Classic, along with the June 13 matchup between the Royals and Tigers in Omaha, Neb., will make up the inaugural GEICO Summer Series.

The excitement surrounding the Little League Classic can be traced back to the PLAY BALL initiative, which is supported by Little League International, USA Baseball, USA Softball, Minor League Baseball and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and is MLB's largest effort to encourage young people and communities to participate in baseball- or softball-related activities. PLAY BALL events have become MLB's signature youth engagement activity during the professional and amateur baseball and softball calendar, including key dates throughout the MLB offseason and into the World Series.

Tweet from @PlayBall: At the #LittleLeagueClassic, you're a part of the game. pic.twitter.com/pzL0NxMIBw

"The PLAY BALL initiative is really about partnerships, like our partnership with Little League International, doing good work in this space," said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred during Sunday's telecast of the 2018 Little League Classic between the Mets and Phillies. "It's investment. We're investing in under-served communities where kids haven't had an opportunity to play. And the owners believe, and we believe, that we're seeing return on that investment, in terms of greater interest in the game.

"It's the RBI [Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities] program, the academies, the Elite Development Invitational, all of those programs under the PLAY BALL umbrella, we think are really helping us get traction in that youth space. And remember, growing at a time when youth participation in all sports is dropping, we feel is a real accomplishment."

Video: NYM@PHI: Manfred on his playing days, LL Classic

The Pirates will make their second appearance in the Little League Classic, having also played in the inaugural game against the Cardinals in 2017. Pirates and Cubs players will attend Little League World Series games earlier in the day on Aug. 18, and players, coaches and families of the 2019 Little League World Series teams, as well as local Williamsport youth baseball and softball organizations, will fill a significant portion of the capacity at Bowman Field.

Tweet from @Pirates: Commissioner Manfred announces we're heading back to Williamsport next year! #LittleLeagueClassic������ Pirates vs Cubs at Bowman Field 8.18.19 pic.twitter.com/Mw3EdIrBlc

"Players always enjoy the opportunity to share their passion and excitement for baseball with the talented young players competing in the Little League World Series," said MLBPA executive director Tony Clark. "That connection between generations of players is the lifeblood of our game."

Historic Bowman Field, in which MLB and the state of Pennsylvania invested a multi-million dollar renovation prior to the 2017 Little League Classic, opened in 1926. It is the second-oldest Minor League ballpark in the United States. More than 560 Major Leaguers, including Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan, Bill Mazeroski, Jim Rice and Jim Bunning, have worn a professional baseball uniform for Williamsport. Currently, Bowman Field is home to the Class-A Williamsport Crosscutters of the NY-Penn League.

Tweet from @MLB: Welcome to Williamsport. #LittleLeagueClassic pic.twitter.com/cbtUW5dVLl

"The Little League Classic has been a fabulous experience for the Little League Baseball World Series teams who've had the opportunity to interact with the big leaguers and is the perfect vehicle to showcase the youthful excitement and energy that fuels the games of baseball and softball," said Little League president and CEO Stephen D. Keener. "We're really pleased that another group of 16 Little League teams from around the world will have this incredible opportunity."

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates