New Focus on Annual Initiative Will Be on Fun, Non-Traditional Game and
Skills Format For Kids in Cities Across the United States and Puerto Rico
Mayors Will Work Toward Re-Connecting Families and Children with
Baseball & Softball Following Year of Lost Opportunities Due to Pandemic
DENVER – Following a launch event led by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock during MLB All-Star Week, Major League Baseball and the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) today announced the return of the joint “PLAY BALL SUMMER” effort, with a new focus on Sandlot play. Mayors’ Offices throughout the United States and Puerto Rico will establish community-based events designed to connect families and communities to baseball and softball through fun-focused activities that will revolve around non-traditional play and skills building. Since 2015, Mayors have hosted thousands of kids at celebratory, youth baseball-themed events through this effort.
“PLAY BALL Summer – Sandlot” will be held in parks, vacant lots or baseball stadiums designed for safe play. Each event will be centered on partially-structured games where each player will get a chance to bat and play defense in a fun, fast-pace format. Additional activities at each Mayor’s PLAY BALL event will include relay race, relay throws, “road runner” competitions, Slugger/Home Run Derby, “500” fly ball catching competitions, soft-toss hitting, and standard infield and outfield defensive plays. PLAY BALL equipment will be provided to Mayors and will include plastic or foam bat & ball sets. Participating children will receive a set of their own to bring home. Mayors will work with various community groups to host these events through August and September.
“Our partnership with the U.S. Conference of Mayors has been a hallmark of our PLAY BALL initiative, and we are excited to expand on that relationship,” said Tony Reagins, Chief Baseball Development Officer, Major League Baseball. “Sandlot play was the lifeblood of developing a lifelong passion for baseball and softball. We believe ‘PLAY BALL SUMMER – Sandlot’ will reignite that movement and lead to greater levels of engagement for our sport.”
“The United States Conference of Mayors is pleased to launch PLAY BALL SUMMER Sandlot as part of its sixth year of partnership with Major League Baseball. Play Ball has been a win-win for everyone involved-the mayors, Major League Baseball and most importantly, our kids who are being exposed to one of America’s favorite pastimes. Planning fun baseball/softball events supports the mayors in their efforts in getting youth back outside playing, socializing, and being active,” said Tom Cochran, CEO & Executive Director of the United States Conference of Mayors.”
“PLAY BALL SUMMER – Sandlot” is part of the PLAY BALL initiative, which is baseball’s collective effort to encourage young people and communities to participate in baseball- or softball-related activities, including formal leagues, events and casual forms of play. PLAY BALL events have become MLB’s signature youth engagement activity during the professional and amateur baseball and softball calendar, including key events throughout the MLB offseason, Regular Season, Postseason and the World Series. PLAY BALL events demonstrate the positive way the game can serve as an outlet for physical activity, fun with friends and learning how to play the sport at its most basic levels.
Casual participation in baseball continued to see sharp growth in 2020 to nearly 8.1 million participants, an increase of +22% from 2019. Since 2014, the year prior to the launch of the PLAY BALL initiative, casual participation in baseball has grown +88.3%. For four consecutive years, baseball and softball combined to rank as the most participated team sports in the United States, with the latest data in that timeframe in 2019 marking 25.1 million participants.
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