WASHINGTON -- As a prelude to the reveal for the 2018 All-Star Game logo, Nationals Park hosted about 100 youth participants from the D.C. area in the latest Play Ball event Wednesday afternoon. Youth participation is a pillar of All-Star Week so it was only fitting for the event to
WASHINGTON -- As a prelude to the reveal for the 2018 All-Star Game logo, Nationals Park hosted about 100 youth participants from the D.C. area in the latest Play Ball event Wednesday afternoon. Youth participation is a pillar of All-Star Week so it was only fitting for the event to take place at the ceremonial beginning of Washington's All-Star year.
"I think the Commissioner's initiative for Play Ball is critical to highlighting fun baseball to kids across the country, and we're all in on that at the Nationals," Nationals principal owner Marla Lerner Tanenbaum said. "We have a Youth Baseball Academy at Ward 7 [in D.C.], and we have a couple thousand kids on those fields every year already after four years. We're really excited about bringing all of that to Washington."
Wednesday's event featured children from Washington-area RBI programs and local children organized by the Mayor's office. They were organized into five rotating stations, which included activities such as baserunning, hitting and pitching. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred paid a visit and greeted the participants.
The event came in advance of a big month in store for youth baseball across the country.
A record 250 mayors spanning 43 states, 16 cities in Puerto Rico plus Washington, D.C., committed to hosting the third annual "Play Ball Summer" throughout August, with additional cities expected to join the effort. The goal of the initiative -- announced by Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and the United States Conference of Mayors -- is to boost involvement and connect families and communities to baseball and softball, through the game as well as fun, focused activities, like running bases or playing catch.
Last year, more than 200 mayors hosted more than 22,000 kids in Play Ball events across the country.
Washington is preparing to host its first All-Star Game since 1969, and the first in the history of Nationals Park. But the city is also preparing to host the events surrounding the game, many of which focus on the youth. That means the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy figures to play a large role in the events surrounding All-Star Week in 2018.
The game is set for July 17, and Wednesday represented the start of the official countdown toward the date, with the logo reveal for the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard.
"It's been such a big part of our families' desires for Washington since we became owners to have the All-Star Game here," Lerner Tanenbaum said. "It's kind of the fulfillment of one of the things that was most important to us. So it's a little surreal that it's all starting. We've been talking about it since like 2006, so it's kind of crazy it's happening."
Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.