PITTSBURGH -- Major League Baseball and USA Baseball announced a 10-year partnership on Tuesday that will enable the grass roots group to focus its attention on developing baseball in the U.S.
Over the course of the agreement, MLB will give USA Baseball $10 million toward that effort, effectively ending the necessity for the non-profit organization to raise money so it can fund its annual commitments.
"MLB is excited about this significant expansion of our relationship with USA Baseball," Commissioner Bud Selig said on Tuesday only hours before the All-Star Game at PNC Park. "By strengthening bonds between the National Governing Body for amateur baseball and MLB, we will be able to better understand both the needs and the opportunities that exist and put initiatives in place to encourage growth of the game at all levels."
USA Baseball and MLB already work in tandem to select Team USA for both the World Baseball Classic and the Summer Olympics. To that end, a 60-man provisional roster of MLB Minor Leaguers was submitted on Tuesday in anticipation for the America Olympic Qualifying Event to be staged from Aug. 28-Sept. 5 in Havana, Cuba.
The top two teams in that tournament automatically qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Bejing. The teams that finish third and fourth will get another shot at qualifying in a final preliminary event in 2008. If the U.S. qualifies at Cuba, that event will be held in Taiwan. If Team USA finishes third or fourth, the event will be held in the U.S. at a still to be chosen site.
Davey Johnson is being brought back to manage the team going to Cuba, with Reggie Smith as the hitting coach, Rick Eckstein as the third base coach and Marcel Lachemann as the pitching coach. The same quartet piloted the team that qualified to play in Cuba when it won a pre-qualifying tournament in Phoenix last year.
The latest U.S. Olympic qualifying team is scheduled to report to the Houston Astros' Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla., on Aug. 16. The U.S. will share the facility with Team Canada and Team Puerto Rico, and will prep for Cuba by scrimmaging against each other. The three teams depart to Havana on Aug. 25.
The new financial agreement ended about a year of negotiations and will allow USA Baseball officials to concentrate on these kind of commitments.
"The pressure is really off," said Paul Seiler, the president and chief executive of USA Baseball. "The partnership is going to give us financial stability as well as the leverage MLB has in marketing, media and all these different areas. Our charge is helping the development of the game as well as elite level athletes. It's going to take that one burden away from us -- finding that money on an annual basis."
As a major part of the deal, MLB Properties immediately acquired the rights to USA Baseball sponsorships and licenses, and MLB.com acquired USA Baseball's Internet rights.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.