Youth participation will be a central theme during 2015 MLB All-Star Week with several PLAY BALL-affiliated events and additional youth-focused components featured at Great American Ball Park and throughout Greater Cincinnati.
"Strengthening our sport's bonds with young people is an important priority for Major League Baseball," said Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. "Alongside the Reds and our partners, we are proud to use the platform of the Midsummer Classic to offer a wide variety of opportunities for young fans to be a part of our game."
In June 2015, Major League Baseball and USA Baseball launched "PLAY BALL," a significant new initiative that encourages widespread participation in different forms of baseball activities among all age groups, especially youth. The new program highlights the many ways baseball can be played, including outside of the traditionally-organized baseball leagues and tournaments, ranging from playing catch, stickball and WIFFLE ball to participating in skills competitions like "Pitch, Hit & Run." The initiative also will provide players, parents and coaches with the information and resources to help with proper play and instruction. PlayBall.org serves as the initiative's online home and is accessible via MLB.com, USABaseball.com and other partner websites.
Four specific PLAY BALL-affiliated events will take place throughout Cincinnati during All-Star Week, including the attempt to set the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the Largest Game of Catch, the first-ever MLB All-Star Youth Hitting Challenge, the All-Star WIFFLE Ball Tournament and the Pitch, Hit & Run Finals.
- "LARGEST GAME OF CATCH" - Thursday, July 9th
Major League Baseball, the Cincinnati Reds, Chevrolet and GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ are joining together to attempt to set the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title for the Largest Game of Catch during MLB All-Star Week in Cincinnati. The event, which will be presented by Chevrolet, will be held at the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy on Thursday, July 9th at 6:00 p.m. ET.
The overall event will be open to the general public, with those within the age range of 8-18 eligible to participate in the record-setting attempt. In order for the record to be set, a minimum of 250 pairs of young people (ages 8-18) must participate in the game of catch. Additional sponsors supporting the event include Aquafina, Gatorade and Kellogg's. Immediately following the record-setting attempt, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation will conduct an instructional clinic. The program will consist of baseball and softball drills led by the Foundation staff for all registered attendees.
- MLB ALL-STAR YOUTH HITTING CHALLENGE - Sunday, July 12th
MLB and the Reds are teaming up to host the first-ever MLB All-Star Youth Hitting Challenge, a new MLB All-Star event that is open to participants ages 10-16 and free of charge. The event will be held at Marge Schott Stadium on the campus of the University of Cincinnati on Sunday, July 12th at 9:00 a.m. ET.
The Hitting Challenge will consist of two scoring stations: one for bunting and one for hitting. Participants will attempt to score as many points as possible by hitting various targets laid out on a scoring grid. Participants will compete by age, with the two best scores in each group facing off in the Finals. In each of the seven age groups, the participant with the most points will be named the winner. The winners will receive two tickets to the Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders on Monday, July 13th at Great American Ball Park. By registering and competing in the Hitting Challenge, all participants will receive at no charge two T-Mobile All-Star FanFest tickets, two tickets to a future Reds game and a Play Ball t-shirt.
- ALL-STAR WIFFLE BALL TOURNAMENT - Friday, July 10th-Sunday, July 12th
Local Boys & Girls Clubs will participate in the first-ever All-Star WIFFLE Ball Tournament, an eight-team, single-elimination competition during All-Star Week. The participating clubs, which include U.S Bank, LeBlong, James J. Espy, Clem & Ann Buenger, Marge Schott and West Chester/Liberty, have pre-selected Club members to participate. The tournament will be held in three different locations per round: Quarterfinals will take place on Friday, July 11th (12:00-6:00 p.m.) at the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy; Semifinals will take place on Saturday, July 12th (10:00-11:00 a.m. & 3:00-4:00 p.m.) at the T-Mobile All-Star FanFest Diamond; and the Finals will be held at Great American Ball Park on All-Star Sunday, July 13th at 2:15 p.m. The two final teams will receive special prizes, a meet & greet with a Reds Legend and tickets to All-Star Sunday events.
- PITCH, HIT & RUN FINALS - Monday, July 13th
The final of the 2015 Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run program presented by Scotts, the official youth skills competition of Major League Baseball, will take place on the field at Great American Ball Park on Monday, July 13th at 3 p.m. ET prior to Gatorade All-Star Workout Day featuring the 2015 Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders. Beginning in March, approximately 625,000 youth participated in over 4,400 competitions that took place across North America, with the top three boys and girls nationwide from each age group (7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14) competing at the National Finals and participating in activities during MLB All-Star Week. Scotts, the "Official Lawn Care Company of Major League Baseball," is in its third year sponsoring the grassroots program. Aquafina, the "Official Bottled Water of Major League Baseball," is also a supporting sponsor of the program. Pitch, Hit & Run (PHR) invites youth to demonstrate their skills by competing in pitching, hitting and running competitions.
MLB CORPORATE SPONSOR SUPPORT
In addition to Chevrolet's support of the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title attempt for the Largest Game of Catch and Scotts' support of "Pitch, Hit & Run," several corporate sponsors of Major League Baseball are supporting other youth activities during All-Star Week.
Kellogg's is giving four fans the opportunity to have a private catch at Great American Ball Park with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr., through a campaign called, "Play Catch with Cal." One Grand Prize winner of Kellogg's sweepstakes (which ran through June 15th) will have this opportunity along with three children receiving treatment at Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
On Wednesday, July 8th, Bank of America, the official bank of Major League Baseball, hosted a clinic for more than 100 local Boys & Girls Clubs kids at the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy. Hall of Famer Johnny Bench and Reds Hall of Famer George Foster served as instructors in the clinic, which was administered by the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
JR. RBI CLASSIC
Major League Baseball will host the seventh annual Jr. RBI Classic, a friendly, round-robin tournament consisting of more than one hundred young baseball and softball players, during All-Star Week. The event provides the kids (ages 11-12 from Jr. RBI playing divisions) with the opportunity to participate in All-Star Week events and other off-field experiences, including rooming on a college campus, giving back to the community and meeting current and former Major Leaguers. The Jr. RBI Classic will be played on baseball and softball fields across Cincinnati including Withrow High School Fields, Hirsch Fields, and the P&G Cincinnati MLB Urban Youth Academy. As part of their All-Star experience, the young participants will give back by helping to harvest fruits and vegetables for hungry families at The Giving Fields. All participants will also have the opportunity to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
COMMUNITY LEGACY EFFORT
MLB and the Reds plan to donate nearly $5 million, through MLB Charities and the Reds Community Fund, a significant portion of which will help renovate nine youth baseball fields throughout "Reds Country" in order to provide first-class facilities to an expanded range of youth and amateur players in these communities, especially to those from urban and underserved areas.
BASEBALL TOMORROW FUND
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) recently announced its 2015 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game "BTF Kids Take the Field," featuring nine youth players from Cincinnati-based baseball and softball organizations that have been BTF grant recipients in the past. To celebrate its 16th anniversary, BTF invited children from six organizations to take the field during the pre-game ceremony. The children, who will be joined by the U.S. Team players, were nominated for participation by their youth organization.
Additionally, Pitch In For Baseball will announce the winner of an All-Star equipment collection contest on Tuesday, July 14th. The contest, which was done in conjunction with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, the Reds Community Fund and One Team, One Community, invited local organizations to compete for prizes by collecting new and used baseball/softball equipment that will be shared with young players in need. In conjunction with the equipment drive, BTF will award a $5,000 grant to Activities Beyond the Classroom, or ABC Cincinnati, to be used for the purchase of additional equipment. ABC Cincinnati provides extracurricular activities to 30,000 students in Cincinnati Public School. A ceremonial check will be presented to ABC Cincinnati at T-Mobile All-Star FanFest on Saturday, July 11th.
MLB All-Star Week at Great American Ball Park includes the 86th MLB All-Star Game on FOX (Tuesday, July 14th), Gatorade All-Star Workout Day (Monday, July 13th) featuring the Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders on ESPN, All-Star Sunday (July 12th) including the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on MLB Network and the All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game on ESPN, and T-Mobile All-Star FanFest at the Duke Energy Convention Center (July 10th-14th). The All-Star Game also will be televised in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and Sirius XM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more MLB All-Star Week information, please visit AllStarGame.com, the All-Star Game Twitter account (@AllStarGame) and All-Star Game Facebook account (Facebook.com/MLBAllStarGame).
Contact: Matt Bourne or Steve Arocho, Major League Baseball, (212) 931-7878, @MLB_PR