Major League Baseball today announced the wide range of Baseball & Softball Development initiatives scheduled in 2020 to improve access to and foster advanced development within the youth and amateur levels of the sport. These activities, scheduled from January through December next year, will include PLAY BALL events in the United States and around the world, diversity-focused development camps and ID Tours (boys & girls baseball, softball), a PLAY BALL WEEKEND effort in early June, youth-centered initiatives during July’s All-Star Week in Los Angeles, and more. Many of the events will be jointly operated with a variety of partners, including USA Baseball, USA Softball, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Little League International, Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Major & Minor League Clubs, MLB International Offices, and MLB business partners. In its first full year of operation under MLB, the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla. will serve as a central location for many of the programs, namely the development focused initiatives (e.g., Hank Aaron Invitational & Breakthrough Series) and the RBI World Series.
“Increasing youth participation and fostering the development of high-potential athletes continues to be a priority commitment for our sport,” said Tony Reagins, Executive Vice President of Baseball & Softball Development, Major League Baseball. “With our 2020 calendar of activities, we will not only introduce more youth to baseball and softball, but also provide them the necessary tools to develop a lifelong connection with the game.”
Following are the categories of activities and programs scheduled for 2020:
*All dates, locations and events are subject to change, and additional elements/events will be added*
NEW IN 2020 – MLB Tour, Girls Baseball Events
MLB is launching a new baseball development evaluation initiative in 2020 to identify high school-aged baseball players for placement in more advanced development programs operated jointly by MLB and USA Baseball. These new additions will specifically target young athletes from either inner-city/diverse/underserved communities (MLB Tour) or female baseball players within the larger city areas (MLB Grit).
The MLB Tour will identify players of diverse backgrounds, particularly those living in inner cities and underserved communities, to attend a variety of MLB-led initiatives, including RBI programs, MLB Youth Academies, and Development Events (Hank Aaron Invitational, Breakthrough Series, & DREAM Series). The Hank Aaron Invitational is operated jointly through the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) and USA Baseball, while the Breakthrough Series and Dream Series are operated jointly with USA Baseball.
MLB has expanded its girls baseball efforts, with the introduction of a similar identification series of regional identification events for high school-aged female baseball players. Top performers will be selected to participate in the first-ever Girls Baseball Elite Development Invitational, featuring amateur players in a one-week program geared toward providing elite training and instruction, as well as the annual Girls Baseball Breakthrough Series, both of which will be held at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex. All three programs will join the Trailblazer Series, held in the greater Los Angeles area in connection with Jackie Robinson Day, as offerings for young women looking to play baseball. All events will feature members of the Women’s National Baseball Team serving as coaches and mentors.
MLB and partners will host hundreds of PLAY BALL events throughout the United States & Puerto Rico and around the world, including the Bahamas, Brazil, Canada (Montreal), Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo), Mexico (Mexico City), and the United Kingdom (London). Throughout the year, MLB also will operate a number of PLAY BALL, or similarly-structured, youth events throughout Asia, specifically in Japan, South Korea, China, Chinese Taipei, and India. Additionally, all 30 MLB Clubs will unify to lead the celebration of ‘PLAY BALL WEEKEND’, which is scheduled for Friday, June 5th to Sunday, June 7th. PLAY BALL WEEKEND will be designed to be a global series of activities for baseball & softball that will include activations by a variety of MLB’s youth-oriented and business partners. The PLAY BALL initiative is baseball’s collective effort to encourage young people and communities to engage in baseball- or softball-related activities, including formal leagues, special events and casual forms of play. PLAY BALL also serves as the League’s youth umbrella in which all associated programs and events derive from the initiative’s consistent, simple message: However You Play Ball, PLAY BALL!
For the third consecutive year, baseball and softball have combined to rank as the most participated team sports in the United States in 2018 (25.6 million participants), according to the latest Topline Participation Report produced by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). Also, according to the report, baseball has seen a 52.8% rise in casual participation since the launch of the PLAY BALL initiative.
Diversity-Focused Development Camps
Throughout 2020, MLB will host a series of diversity-focused, amateur development camps – namely the DREAM Series, Breakthrough Series and Hank Aaron Invitational – focused on developing and diversifying the future talent pool in baseball and softball. Some of the most talented high school baseball and softball players from around the country will participate in these events and receive elite-level instruction as well as the opportunity to be mentored by former Major League players & managers.
For the fourth consecutive year, Major League Baseball and USA Baseball will operate the DREAM SERIES, a special amateur camp that focuses on developing and diversifying the future talent pool of pitchers and catcher in baseball, in connection to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 20th). The ‘DREAM SERIES,’ which will once again be held at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Los Angeles Angels, in Tempe, Ariz., features a diverse group of approximately 80 top high school pitchers and catchers. From Thursday, January 16th through Monday, January 20th, these players will receive elite-level instruction from former MLB players and managers.
The dates of baseball Breakthrough Series events scheduled for 2020 at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla. includes the following:
- Breakthrough Series Boys Baseball (June 11th-14th, 16th-19th)
- Softball development will remain a priority throughout 2020 with several events at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex. All events will feature former professional & Olympic medal-winning softball players as well as members of the USA Softball Women’s National Team serving as coaches and mentors. The dates of softball events scheduled at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla., includes the following:
- Softball Elite Development Invitational (June 26th-July 2nd)
- Softball Breakthrough Series (October 15th-19th)
The diversity-focused, amateur development camp effort, also held at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex, will peak with the Hank Aaron Invitational, a joint initiative by MLB, the MLBPA and USA Baseball that is designed as a youth-oriented event aiming to get nearly hundreds players (boys, ages 13-18) high school-age players, with diverse backgrounds, to the next levels of the sport. The top 44 players from early portion of the Hank Aaron Invitational will be invited to play in a special showcase game at SunTrust Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves, as part of an extensive “Hank Aaron Week” hosted by the Braves. The Hank Aaron Invitational is the premier, diversity-focused development experience for high school age baseball players in the United States. Nearly 90% of all alumni of the event, which began in July 2015, who have graduated high school from 2016-2019 are either playing baseball in college or at the professional level in Club Minor League system.
- Hank Aaron Invitational @ Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla., Ages 13-14 (July 18th-24th)
- Hank Aaron Invitational @ Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla., Ages 15-17 (July 24th-July 31st)
- Hank Aaron Invitational 44 (August 1-2) – At SunTrust Park in Atlanta, Georgia
For the second consecutive year, MLB will host the European Development Tournament in connection with the Mitel & MLB Present London Series 2020. The three-day tournament, scheduled June 9th-11th, will serve as a showcase of MLB’s Europe-wide elite development program. Over the last eight years, MLB has conducted more than 25 elite development camps and tournaments across Europe in over 15 countries per year.
In-School – Fun At Bat
More than 3.5 million students in the U.S., London (UK), Mexico and Puerto Rico, will participate in Fun At Bat, a bat and ball program for all children created for use in elementary school P.E. classes as an introductory, modified bat-and-ball program for young students, ages 5-11. The overarching goal of this program, which is part of the PLAY BALL initiative, is to promote fun and active lifestyles for children, while teaching them the fundamental skills of bat and ball sports. The program also includes a literacy component and teaches character traits such as leadership, teamwork and fair play. All provided program materials are available in English and Spanish.
College & High School Focused Programs and RBI Tournaments
In celebration of College Baseball’s Opening Weekend, MLB will host two collegiate baseball tournaments featuring teams participating in two separate events – the returning “Andre Dawson Classic” and inaugural “MLB4.”
From Friday, February 14th through Sunday, February 16th, MLB will host the Andre Dawson Classic at the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy and Maestri Field at the University of New Orleans. The event, which is named after the Chicago Cubs/Montreal Expos legend who is one of only two HBCU baseball-playing alumni enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, is designed to highlight Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) and their baseball programs. Participating baseball programs will include several HBCU schools. MLB Network will air two of the Andre Dawson Classic games.
The MLB4 tournament, a collegiate baseball showcase event featuring some of the best programs in the nation, will also be held Friday, February 14th through Sunday, February 16th at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Ariz., the shared Spring Training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. The tournament will feature include the College World Series Champion Vanderbilt University Commodores (Vanderbilt), University of Michigan Wolverines (Michigan), University of Connecticut Huskies (UConn) and California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO). MLB Network will air the contest between Vanderbilt and Michigan on Friday, February 14th.
The Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP) League, a premier development and showcase experience for dozens of high school baseball prospects based in the United States, will return in 2020. The PDP League, which will be held from mid-June through early-July, is an invitation-based development opportunity for approximately 80 of the top high school baseball players ahead of the 2020 MLB Draft. It will include competitive game play, practice & training sessions with MLB Club representatives serving as on-field coaches, and evaluation using modern technologies tailoring individualized development curriculums for each player. The League will culminate with the High School All-American Game featuring the best players from the PDP League during MLB All-Star Week in Los Angeles.
Beginning in June, MLB will host the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Regional Tournaments, which features more than 100 RBI baseball and softball teams from cities all around the world competing for a berth in the RBI World Series, which will be held at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in August. Regional tournaments are situated in seven regions throughout the United States and one World Region.
In September, MLB and USA Baseball will host the third annual States Play, a high school baseball tournament to showcase some of the best rising seniors from two “competing” states that historically produce a high volume of collegiate and professional players.
2020 MLB All-Star Week in Los Angeles
MLB will once again launch a full schedule of activities during MLB All-Star Week featuring various youth & fan engagement efforts throughout the Greater Los Angeles area in July. These include PLAY BALL PARK, the Commissioner’s Cup & Jennie Finch Classic tournaments featuring baseball and softball teams from MLB Youth Academies around the country and in Puerto Rico, the Pitch, Hit & Run and Jr. Home Run Derby skills competitions, and High School Home Run Derby, and much more.
2020 MLB Little League Classic
The Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox will play in the fourth MLB Little League Classic presented by GEICO in Williamsport, Pa. in August 2020. The special Regular Season contest, as well as ancillary activities such as a customized version of PLAY BALL PARK, will take place on Sunday, August 23rd, with the game airing nationally that evening on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” and ESPN Radio at 7:00 p.m. (ET).
MLB Network’s “Play Ball”
MLB Network’s weekly kids-focused program “Play Ball” will return for its fifth season in 2020. Hosted by MLB Network analysts, Play Ball features one-on-one demonstrations and conversations with some of the top players and personalities in the game.