WASHINGTON -- Earlier this year, the United States Conference of Mayors renewed its pledge with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to continue "PLAY BALL Summer," aimed at growing youth baseball across all 50 states and Puerto Rico.Among the dozens of city leaders who supported extending the agreement through 2020
WASHINGTON -- Earlier this year, the United States Conference of Mayors renewed its pledge with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred to continue "PLAY BALL Summer," aimed at growing youth baseball across all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Among the dozens of city leaders who supported extending the agreement through 2020 is Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who visited PLAY BALL Park near Nationals Park on Friday for a tour of the kid-friendly facility, open for free play every day leading up to the 89th MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.
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"It's important for us to get kids and have them active, out of the house, away from electronics, getting to know their friends, getting some sun, some exercise and learning about nutrition," Mayor Bowser said. "Competition and fair play -- that's what baseball allows them to do. It's a sport that will carry them throughout their lives."
PLAY BALL Park, a free All-Star Week attraction accessible to children and families, provides a festive environment amid the backdrop of the annual Midsummer Classic. PLAY BALL Park is headlining the various youth and fan engagement efforts throughout Washington during All-Star Week, which includes two new youth baseball and softball tournaments comprised of teams from MLB Youth Academies -- The All-Star Commissioner's Cup & Jennie Finch Classic.
Measuring more than 145,000 square feet, PLAY BALL Park is located at The Yards at the Capitol Riverfront (Parcel A, Lot 854 Square, located at the intersection of First and M Streets). The festive space includes a youth-sized turf diamond featuring daily scheduled programming and open play as well as batting tunnels, pitching inflatables, a "Stickball Alley," food trucks and MLB sponsor-activation zones.
Mayor Bowser mingled with kids playing at the Park during her visit and marveled at the city's transformation as it prepares for the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday.
"I am one of those Washingtonians that didn't have baseball when I was growing up," she said. "That's why we're so excited to have the Washington Nationals in our city. They have transformed this part of Washington D.C., and introduced a new generation of kids to baseball."
The city's partnership with the Commissioner's PLAY BALL initiative promises to further cement that interest.
"It's a part of a well-rounded childhood," Bowser said. "We spend time focusing on academics, which is important, but we know sport can expose kids to different kids, different places in the world, and it can teach them how to be disciplined and focused in different parts of their life. We think youth sports is important to a well-rounded citizen."
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.