Major League Baseball and USA Baseball today announced the launch of "PLAY BALL," a significant new initiative that will encourage widespread participation in all forms of baseball activities among all age groups, especially youth.
The new program will highlight 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. Coaching tips and parent resources will be prominent components of the site. PlayBall.org also gives parents, coaches and kids information on how to participate in Play Ball activities, links to youth-related news and events, and searchable maps to help find local community leagues. Health and safety information, including on MLB's Pitch Smart and Play Sun Smart programs, also will be available.
Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr. said: "Play Ball is our largest effort to grow baseball and softball at the grassroots level, particularly among kids. The program will emphasize not only organized baseball and softball activity, but also the many variations of the game that do not require 18 players, umpires or a diamond. We are looking forward to working with USA Baseball and our partner organizations to encourage participation in the many ways to enjoy the National Pastime and to strengthen our support of traditional styles of play."
USA Baseball executive director/CEO Paul V. Seiler said: "The launch of Play Ball is a landmark occasion for our sport. With the support of Major League Baseball, we are thrilled to take a more active role in the proliferation of our game and offer innovative resources to our national member organizations and their constituents. While the launch of Play Ball is the culmination of a lot of hard work, today represents the beginning of our partnership with MLB to grow the game at the grassroots level."
Additionally, MLB and USA Baseball are launching the Play Ball Mobile Coaching App, a free tool for coaches at every level that is currently available for download via Google Play and will be coming soon to the Apple App Store. Coaches can access the App as guests, but by logging on with Play Ball credentials, users can create customized practice plans, organize team data, utilize Pitch Smart recommendations and more. The Play Ball Drills Library outlines information for hundreds of drills, along with important information such as difficulty level, recommended duration, diagrams and videos for each exercise.
One of the main features of PlayBall.org is "Baseball Near You," a database of baseball playing opportunities, searchable by zip code. Inclusive of more than 10,000 leagues across the U.S., the feature identifies playing opportunities, as well provides contact information for player registration. Baseball Near You was made possible through the support of American Legion, Dixie Boys and Majors, Little League Baseball and Softball, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities and the MLB Urban Youth Academies.
The promotion of Play Ball includes the launch of an advertising campaign, which has already begun with spots on MLB Network, FOX, FOX Sports 1, ESPN and MLB.com. Spots also will air on TBS game broadcasts beginning in July. The "Play Ball" video can be viewed HERE (via MLB.com).
MLB is partnering with its Clubs and various organizations to help grow the initiative's awareness and accessibility through special events and promotional opportunities. USA Baseball, its national member organizations, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, will help promote Play Ball across their membership bases and within their communities. MLB also is launching MLB.com/playball, in conjunction with PlayBall.org, as a social media destination for fans to share their experiences during Play Ball activities.
Since April, Major League Baseball and Little League Baseball and Softball have joined up with ESPN for an initiative to promote youth baseball by bringing kids from local Little Leagues to MLB ballparks for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball," allowing them to meet Major Leaguers and appear on air with ESPN broadcasters. This initiative will continue in support of Play Ball's launch. Special youth events that showcase the different ways to play the game will be an important aspect of Play Ball. During All-Star Week in July, MLB, the Cincinnati Reds and Chevrolet are joining together to attempt to set the GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for the "largest game of catch" at the MLB Largest Game of Catch presented by Chevrolet.
In addition to Play Ball, Major League Baseball is committed to strengthening its existing relationships with youth-based organizations and growing its ongoing initiatives, such as Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, Baseball Tomorrow Fund (BTF) and the MLB Urban Youth Academy network, which gives America's youth, especially those from underserved and inner-city communities, greater access to playing baseball and softball.