OMAHA, Neb. -- Baseball has anchored the Omaha community for decades, playing host to the College World Series in June and housing the Triple-A Storm Chasers. And now, thanks to an initiative from Major League Baseball, the game is coming to the city at its highest level.Representatives of Major League
OMAHA, Neb. -- Baseball has anchored the Omaha community for decades, playing host to the College World Series in June and housing the Triple-A Storm Chasers. And now, thanks to an initiative from Major League Baseball, the game is coming to the city at its highest level.
Representatives of Major League Baseball, the city of Omaha and others announced on Thursday afternoon that the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers will play a regular-season game at TD Ameritrade Park on June 13 next season. The game will be part of the new GEICO Summer Series, and it will be televised on ESPN.
Commissioner Rob Manfred was joined by Royals general manager Dayton Moore, Tigers general manager Al Avila and several Omaha officials to announce the historic event, a part of continuous efforts to spread and promote the game.
"Over the last four years, we've pursued two initiatives that are probably most important to us," Manfred said. "The first was to unite the various institutions that are involved in baseball, broadly defined under the umbrellas of Play Ball and One Baseball, and the second was to bring Major League Baseball to places where we don't play every day. This game continues to advance both of these initiatives."
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In addition to overseas efforts in countries like Australia, Japan and Mexico, MLB has in recent years hosted contests in untapped domestic locations such as Williamsport, Pa., the site of the Little League World Series, and Fort Bragg, a military base in North Carolina.
It was just a matter of time before MLB's effort brought the game to the River City, which was at the top of the list of potential places to play.
"We identified the first year that I was Commissioner a number of potential sites, targets to play games that were not in our traditional ballparks," said Manfred, who became Commissioner before the 2015 season. "Omaha was on that list from the beginning. …Our desire to be here had been strong all along; it was just a question of finding the right opportunity."
Much of the pull to Omaha was due to TD Ameritrade Park, which opened in 2011 and is home to not just the College World Series but the Creighton Bluejays as well.
"This may be the best non-Major League facility in North America," Manfred said. "It's a great, great facility, and that does make the playing and execution here a little easier."
While the logistics of having two teams travel to a third-party city for just one day may be hectic behind the scenes, Moore believes the experience will not only be welcomed by the players involved but also highly anticipated, as it will offer clubs a change of pace from the traditional structure of a big league schedule.
"The players love to kind of break their routine a little bit, so it's going to be fun for them," Moore said. "They draw energy from the fans. As I said before, the environment was so important. This is an unbelievable environment. Our players, I think, will be re-energized to play in a venue like this, change it up a little bit."
MLB has already announced further plans to play overseas in Asia, Latin America and Europe over the next few seasons. While Manfred couldn't reveal exactly where, he said the league intends to play more games in Omaha and other domestic locations in the future.
"We're committed to the idea that events like these, where we don't ordinarily play, really dovetail nicely with our international efforts, in terms of trying to let people see the product up close and personal, and growing the game over the long haul," Manfred said.
Manfred stressed consistently that these efforts seek not to step on the toes of college baseball and other institutions, but rather to develop and advance the game at all levels. And if you ask anybody involved, there's no better place to do that than here, at the nucleus of it all, in Omaha.
"The College World Series, in and of itself, is a great event with a great tradition," Manfred said, "but we hope that by playing here, we'll be bringing even more attention to this game and help strengthen our relationship with the NCAA and college baseball as a whole."
Jordan Wolf is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City.