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MLB, MLBPA join for youth baseball, softball

Organizations commit to initiative to improve programs in US, Canada

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have committed $30 million to a new joint initiative focusing on "improving the caliber, effectiveness and availability of amateur baseball and softball programs across the United States and Canada."

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark made the announcement at an All-Star Game presented by T-Mobile news conference Monday in Cincinnati, with Major Leaguers Anthony Rizzo, Chris Archer, Mark Teixeira, Andrew McCutchen and David Price among those in attendance.

The funds will be designated for efforts including training and recognition programs for coaches, grants for youth baseball academies, MLB's new "Play Ball" initiative and programs for players and former players who desire to work with youth baseball programs in their communities.

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"Accessibility is an essential step toward not only strengthening the connection with fans, but also developing talent at the amateur level," Manfred said in a statement. "Through initiatives like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, the MLB Urban Youth Academies and the Breakthrough Series, Major League Baseball has provided opportunities for thousands of young people to play the game and showcase their skills. This joint commitment with the MLBPA and its current and former members is a significant step toward expanding our focus on ensuring the future growth and prosperity of our sport."

Video: Manfred on youth participation at All-Star Weekend

MLB and the MLBPA will also create a 501(c)(3) organization to accept donations from players, clubs, corporations and other interested parties to help fund programs.

One of the first major programs under the initiative will be the first Elite Development Invitational, operated by USA Baseball in Vero Beach, Fla., from July 18-30. Approximately 150 youth players, ages 13-16, will participate in the two-week program that will provide player development opportunities to top prospects from minority or underserved backgrounds.

Video: Tony Clark joins The Rundown to talk youth baseball

"For as long as the game has been played, generations of Major Leaguers have been passionate about sharing the game they love with others, especially youth," Clark said in a statement. "Many current and former players are already actively involved with programs designed to not only teach the game at the youth level and develop future ballplayers, but also help excite the next generation of fans.

"This initiative will help advance and enhance those efforts. Despite their never-ending determination to preserve and grow interest in baseball, players have long known that reseeding the game at the grassroots level requires the cooperation and support of the entire baseball community. Today's announcement is great news to all players, and we look forward to working with Major League Baseball to make serious strides to ensure that every kid in the United States and Canada who wants to play baseball has an equal opportunity to do so."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.