Play Ball initiative celebrated in Durham

Play Ball initiative celebrated in Durham

The Play Ball initiative found its way to Durham, N.C., on Friday evening, bringing Major League Baseball's effort to celebrate youth participation in baseball to one of the most famous Minor League parks.

Players from the Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League Blue Jays were given a special welcome at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, a stadium adorned with a giant Bull logo inspired by the one from the iconic film "Bull Durham." The Bulls are the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, and their home park seats 10,000 fans.

The kids got to take special stage in a pregame ceremony hosted by Durham Mayor Bill Bell. Bell, one of more than 100 American mayors involved in the nation-wide Play Ball initiative, proclaimed August as "Play Ball Month" in the city of Durham.

After that, the kids got to take the field along with the hometown Bulls for the national anthem prior to the game against Triple-A Indianapolis. The Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League is now in its 19th season, and it provides free baseball participation to 500 boys and girls between the ages of 5 and 12.

"We are honored to share with Mayor Bell in recognizing a team from our very own Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League as we kick off 'Play Ball Month' in Durham," said Bulls general manager Mike Birling. "These kids are the future of our great game, and highlighting their passion for baseball is inspiring to us all."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.