Former All-Stars take HR Derby to London

July 5th, 2017

Former big league All-Stars Carlos Pena, Cliff Floyd and Shawn Green swung for the fences across the pond on Tuesday, as Major League Baseball hosted a Home Run Derby in London's Hyde Park as part of the MLB Battlegrounds exhibition to promote baseball in the United Kingdom and Europe.

The July 4th event featured the retired MLB sluggers along with British cricket stars Jos Buttler and Alex Hales competing in a home run challenge similar to the T-Mobile Home Run Derby set to take place Monday at Marlins Park in Miami before the 88th All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday.

The hitters split into two teams -- the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers -- as the Dodgers, led by Floyd, took home the title.

"London, it's been real," Floyd said on social media. "UK fans, see you in '19, hopefully playing some Major League Baseball games. But, Battleground, we came away with a victory. That's all I can say. What a fantastic time we had over here in the UK. Look forward to seeing you again soon. Love you."

"It was a blast being out here showing baseball to the U.K., and we had a great show," said Green, who competed with the Dodgers in the Derby. "The fans turned out in droves, and hopefully they caught some balls and got a little taste of American baseball."

With the English Premier League on hiatus for the summer, the exhibition -- which also included a series of short films, virtual reality gaming, music, food and fashion in addition to the batting competition -- drew multiple thousands of passionate British baseball fans, according to a report by The Associated Press.

John Boyd, the head of Baseball Softball UK, told the AP there is an increasingly large baseball following in Great Britain. Boyd estimates there are 1.5 million fans of the sport in England. Technology like MLB.TV is allowing people across the globe to watch live games, which is helping that number to grow.

"Now I can watch it at the pub," Boyd said. "I have an app that lets me watch it in real time. The globalization of tech has made it a lot easier to follow other countries' national pastimes."

Charlie Hill, managing director of Major League Baseball for MLB Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said it's conceivable some regular-season games will be held in London as soon as 2019.

The National Football League and National Basketball Association have played regular season games in the United Kingdom for several years now, and Hill said he would not be surprised if MLB followed suit in the near future.

"The teams are enthusiastic," Hill told the AP. "That is the target and it's becoming the expectation."