Press release Major League Baseball
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – Major League Baseball, USA Baseball and BaseballSoftballUK announced that “Fun At Bat” (www.funatbat.org), the introductory bat-and-ball program designed for use in school physical education classes, will now be available to primary school students in Greater London and surrounding areas through 2021. The free program, which is currently reaching more than three million children in all 50 United States, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and Mexico, will be administered by BaseballSoftballUK (BSUK), the development agency for the two sports in Britain, along with official schools delivery partner Premier Education Group.
The announcement was made today at Manor Junior School in Barking by Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., USA Baseball’s Chief Development Officer Rick Riccobono, BaseballSoftballUK CEO John Boyd, and Premier’s Jane Hannah, along with a small class of students who demonstrated some of the program’s activities. Photos from the press conference can be found HERE (pw: MLBLondon2019; expires 7/3).
The initial launch of Fun At Bat in London will serve thousands of children in 50 schools in London, Birmingham and Southeast England. However, MLB’s Europe Office and BSUK will look to grow the access to the program in the following years. Franklin Sports, a long-time MLB and USA Baseball partner, has created custom Fun At Bat Baseball equipment to help activate this program since its inception in 2016.
A joint MLB and USA Baseball youth program, Fun At Bat promotes fun and active lifestyles for children, while also teaching the fundamental skills of bat-and-ball sports. The program, available in both English and Spanish, also includes a literacy component focusing on character development and teaching traits such as leadership, teamwork and responsibility. Fun At Bat is part of the PLAY BALL initiative (www.PlayBall.org) – the sport’s largest collective effort to encourage young people to participate in baseball- or softball-related activities, including formal and casual forms of play. Since the initiative’s launch in 2015, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) has reported a 52.8 percent increase in casual baseball participation in the United States.
“Major League Baseball is thrilled to bring Fun At Bat to Greater London, which will serve as a lasting legacy of the London Series,” said Tony Reagins, Executive Vice President of Baseball & Softball Development, MLB. “The potential impact of this program is significant, especially as we continue to foster a connection to our sport and make baseball, as well as softball, a part of the sports culture in the United Kingdom.”
“We are excited to partner with BaseballSoftballUK to deliver the Fun At Bat program to students of greater London,” said Rick Riccobono, USA Baseball’s Chief Development Officer. “This initiative is not only a great way to introduce and teach the sport of baseball to students, it also serves as a platform to teach lifelong character development skills that will stay with students well beyond the program. We look forward to continuing to work with BaseballSoftballUK and additional national baseball federations as we continue to promote the sport of baseball around the world.”
“We are thrilled to welcome Fun At Bat to the UK, where we believe the programme will be a crucial addition for the development of baseball and softball,” remarked John Boyd, CEO of BaseballSoftballUK. “PLAY BALL events have been hosted by many of the world’s top baseball-playing countries and the addition of the UK to this list shows the importance of the London Series and its legacy events. We look forward to continued partnership with MLB and USA Baseball as we grow baseball and softball in the UK.”
“Premier are delighted to be delivering this exciting programme through our partnership with BaseballSoftballUK into 50 schools,” noted Jane Hannah, Premier Education Group’s Partnership Manager. “Our fully trained Activity Professionals will provide children with a great first experience of the sport.”
Adam Franklin, Vice President at Franklin Sports said: “Franklin Sports is proud to be the Official Equipment Partner of the Fun At Bat program. As long time partners of USA Baseball and Major League Baseball, we are committed to the collective goals of growing youth participation and creating young fans of the sport of baseball.”
The expansion of Fun At Bat to London is MLB’s latest effort to grow the game among young people throughout the world, particularly in Europe. In addition to the multiple PLAY BALL events held in various parts of the United States as well as in Mexico, Brazil, and Panama, MLB has had a substantive imprint on the youth and amateur levels of the sport throughout the world.
Over the last three years, the MLB CUP has served nearly 10,000 kids in Japan, Taiwan and Mexico in tournament play. On Sunday, June 23rd, MLB’s signature international youth league competition was held for the first time in Europe featuring London-based baseball and softball Little League teams at PLAY BALL PARK in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The MLB Coach Development Program has been held throughout the world as a means of providing expert instruction to prospective baseball and softball coaches through MLB’s Development Team. Additionally, the Elite Development Camp has been held for baseball and softball players throughout Europe, ages 13 to 19, to offer them first-class coaching opportunities. Both programs were held in London in advance of the Mitel & MLB Present London Series 2019.