MLB.com Columnist

Lindsay Berra

Network debuts 'Play Ball' show for kids

New program features instructional content for youngsters

Network debuts 'Play Ball' show for kids

Harold Reynolds is no spoiler. He'll only say the Wiffle ball battle he and San Diego Padres outfielder Matt Kemp waged with former Padres pitcher Trevor Hoffman and his sons was epic; a battle for the ages culminating in dramatic fashion.

"It ends in a walk-off, but I'm not telling you who wins," Reynolds said. "You'll have to watch the show."

The show is "Play Ball," MLB Network's new weekly show, hosted by Reynolds and geared toward kids, which debuted Saturday at 10 a.m. ET. In the past, shows like "The Baseball Bunch" and "This Week in Baseball" targeted the young fan, but in recent years, there has been a void in baseball programming geared toward bringing the game to the younger generation.

"It has always been a passion of mine to try to get younger people involved in baseball," said "Play Ball" producer Michael Konner. "There are so many young MLB players who are great to promote the game, and it seems a natural fit to showcase them to a younger audience, show the other side of baseball players and urge kids to go out and play ball."

Reynolds, who recalls Wiffle ball games in his neighborhood and playing games such as "Pickle," "Pepper" and "Hot Box" with his brothers and friends growing up, talks with kids all the time who don't even know what those games are.

Play Ball: Circle the Bases

"They say, 'I played 100 games last year,'" Reynolds said. "And I say, 'OK, but how much did you practice?' Kids just need to play."

To that end, "Play Ball" is an old-school baseball show for the kids of 2016 that will feature one-on-one demonstrations and conversations with some of the top players and personalities in the game about what baseball meant to them as youth players.

"The essence of the show is to get kids playing ball again on their own," Reynolds said. "Wiffle ball, stick ball, sock ball, kick ball, anything to get them doing stuff on their own, out of the house, in the park or the backyard. Pickup baseball, old-school, like we used to do."

The show, which will feature a different MLB star every week, highlights Kemp, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado and Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor in its first three episodes. Each episode features an interview with the player that focuses on how he got involved with baseball and what it was like to play as a kid.

Play Ball: Andrew McCutchen

"Baseball has done amazing things for me," Arenado said. "As a kid, when you don't know people, you get shy. And when you play on a team full of kids and guys your age, you get more comfortable, you're communicating, you meet different people and you learn different things. There are so many positives to it."

Arenado, named for pitcher Nolan Ryan, was a good enough youth pitcher that he once threw a perfect game. He tells the story to Reynolds in his episode of "Play Ball" before walking viewers through his swing and approach to hitting in a way kids can easily understand.

Lindor, who tells kids he would be a dentist if he weren't a ballplayer, also talks of moving from Puerto Rico to Florida and picking up baseball, and of his competitions with his older brothers. He also shows viewers fielding drills at shortstop, including how to turn a double play.

Play Ball: MLB Mashup

In line with the Play Ball initiative, which was launched by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball in 2015, "Play Ball" will also include tips each week on how kids can participate in all forms of baseball activities, plus highlights from on and off the field from throughout MLB. Young fans will also be able to submit their own highlights for use on the air through social media, by Tweeting to @MLBNetwork with the hashtag #PlayBall.

"Growing up, I was fortunate to have people around me that made sure I was having fun playing baseball," Kemp said. "The most important thing we can do for our young fans is to remind them that this is a game meant to be played and enjoyed. Filming 'Play Ball' made me feel like I was a kid again. It was really, really fun."

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