Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Mayors across US, PR commit to Play Ball

MLB.com @DeeshaThosar

For the first time since Play Ball's 2015 inauguration, more than 300 mayors from all 50 states and Puerto Rico have pledged their support to host youth-focused baseball and softball events in their communities through August.

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and the United States Conference of Mayors expect a similar turnout from last year's success, when more than 250 mayors hosted over 35,000 kids in Play Ball events.

For the first time since Play Ball's 2015 inauguration, more than 300 mayors from all 50 states and Puerto Rico have pledged their support to host youth-focused baseball and softball events in their communities through August.

Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball and the United States Conference of Mayors expect a similar turnout from last year's success, when more than 250 mayors hosted over 35,000 kids in Play Ball events.

In its third year, Play Ball Summer encourages mayors across the U.S. and Puerto Rico to organize community-based events that engage families, citizens and city departments to participate in baseball and softball activities focused on having fun while playing the sport.

"Kids want to play. Kids want to play ball," said Tom Brasuell, vice president of community affairs for MLB. "They want to play all kinds of sports, they want to be active. Over the last few years as kids have gotten kind of sedentary, in couches and seats playing video games, they see the adults play baseball. I see lots of kids who are clamoring to play, so we are now giving them the opportunity to play through the Play Ball efforts across the country."

Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the official charity of Major League Baseball, will support the initiative by seeking opportunities for their 1,400 organizations -- representing more than four million youth and 4,300 local clubs -- to take part in Play Ball Summer. Local Boys & Girls Clubs will collaborate or co-host events with mayors.

"Boys & Girls Club is a key partner for us, because pretty much every Boys & Girls Club has a gym, and you can play with a plastic ball and bat in any gym, and that's kind of the entry level for almost anybody who started playing ball," Brasuell said. "And once they start playing, they love it. I see it all the time."

The Play Ball initiative emphasizes the informal aspects of children playing ball any way they can, including Wiffle ball, T-ball or a game of catch. The effort does not necessarily include a full nine innings or umpires. It highlights community-based engagement while creating an everlasting love for the game.

"There's so many more things for kids to do nowadays," said former MLB pitcher Keith Foulke. "The video games and computers and online and all this other stuff. A lot of that stuff has a place in life, but when it comes to athletics, baseball is such a pure sport that once they understand it and they get the fundamentals and they get the handle on it, it's something you can take with you for a lifetime. As a player, as a fan, whatever it is, it can be passed down from generation to generation."

For the second straight year, baseball and softball combined to rank as the most participated team sports in the U.S. in 2017 with 25.1 million participants, according to the annual Topline Participation Report produced by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Last year, casual participation in baseball rose by 12.9 percent with overall participation seeing a 6 percent increase, the latter of which is the largest increase of all major team sports. Over the last three years, baseball has seen a 49.1 percent growth in casual participation, which is in direct correlation to the launch of the Play Ball initiative.

"We're just very proud that we've got every state, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia signed up to do Play Ball events," Brasuell said. "We couldn't do it without these mayors of course, and certainly this year adding Boys & Girls Club as our official charity to support the efforts was a no-brainer."

Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.