The Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles will play in the fourth iteration of the “MLB Little League Classic presented by GEICO” in 2020, as announced by Major League Baseball, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and Little League International on Wednesday. The game, which will take place on Sunday, Aug. 23, and serve as a home game for the Orioles, will air nationally that evening on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” and ESPN Radio at 7 p.m. ET.
“Participating in next year’s Little League Classic is a tremendous honor for our club,” said Baltimore Orioles Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike Elias. “Our entire organization is deeply committed to growing the game at all levels, and to celebrating the invaluable life lessons learned through youth baseball. As a Little League Baseball alumnus myself, I look forward to visiting Williamsport as we come together to share the game of baseball with the next generation.”
“Connecting with the next generation has been a critical part of Commissioner Manfred’s agenda over the past several years and we are thrilled to participate in next seasons Little League Classic that directly connects Major League Players with Little Leaguers,” said Red Sox President and CEO Sam Kennedy. “We look forward to spending time with the next generation of fans and playing in the intimate setting of Historic Bowman Field filled with Little Leaguers and their families.”
MLB and the MLBPA launched the Little League Classic at the renovated Historic Bowman Field, the home of the Phillies’ Class-A Williamsport Crosscutters of the NY-Penn League, in August 2017. The Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017, the Philadelphia Phillies hosted the New York Mets in 2018, and the Pirates will return to host the Chicago Cubs next week. As has become tradition, a significant portion of the capacity at Bowman Field will be filled with the players and families of the participating Little League Baseball World Series teams, as well as local Williamsport youth baseball and softball organizations.
Major Leaguers on the Red Sox and Orioles will attend Little League Baseball World Series games earlier in the day on Aug. 23, demonstrating their commitment to helping grow the game at the youth level.
“Heard about it, it’s a good experience,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “My brother [Joey] was a part of it last year with the Pirates. It’s a good all-around experience. At the beginning it looks hectic with the travel but if you get there early and spend time with the kids it was something that the Pirates and the Cardinals loved. It was fun. Looking forward to it. It’s something different. It’s a few hours from Baltimore so we don’t have to take a luxury plane over there.”
Cora's counterpart also echoed the same sentiments.
"I’m really looking forward to it," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "Watching it on TV, how much fun it looks like the players have, the interactions with the kids … Williamsport is something we all dreamed about as kids, trying to get there and the Little League World Series. I’ve never been there. To go there and experience that, meet everybody up there, play on Sunday Night Baseball in front of that kind of environment, will be a really cool experience."
"It’s something I always wanted to do as a kid, growing up watching it on ABC. We tried to get there, but fell a little short. It’s really, really cool thing. Americana."
Participation in baseball at the youth level continues to have significant growth, according to three independent sources that collect data on youth sports participation. The annual Topline Participation Report produced by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) indicates that baseball has seen +21% growth in both casual and core participation in the sport since 2015, which more than quadruples the growth percentage of the second closest sport (basketball at +4) and reflects four consecutive years of growth. In that same timeframe, casual participation in baseball has risen 52.8%, which is in direct correlation to the launch of MLB’s PLAY BALL initiative (www.PlayBall.org)), baseball’s largest effort to encourage participation in the game at all levels and styles. For the third consecutive year, baseball and softball combined to rank as the most participated team sports in the United States in 2018 with 25.6 million participants. Overall, 29.3% of all boys in the United States, between the ages of 6-12, participate in baseball, which exceeds every other team sport (SFIA). According to the Aspen Institute “State of Play” Trending and Development Report, baseball and softball combine to have the most amount of youth participants among the 6-12 age group (Aspen Institute). Additionally, baseball bucked the trend of overall flat youth sports participation (+0.3%) from 2017 to 2018 with an increase of +2% in participation among youth, ages 7 to 17, according to the 2019 edition of the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) Sports Participation in the U.S. Report (NSGA).
Historic Bowman Field, in which Major League Baseball and the State of Pennsylvania invested a multi-million-dollar renovation prior to the 2017 MLB 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.
The Little League Baseball® World Series is an international championship tournament for children, ages 10-12, held annually in Williamsport, the headquarters for Little League International. Each year, countries from around the world compete on a global stage, with games airing on ESPN and streamed via the ESPN App.