"Play Ball Weekend is a unified demonstration of the National Pastime's commitment to engaging youth in all facets of our game," said Commissioner of Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. "This special program is an elevated step of the Play Ball initiative, which has been a tremendous vehicle to strengthen the ties with young people all across the United States and Canada. We thank our Clubs for the outstanding experiences they will provide throughout Play Ball Weekend."
All 30 Clubs will feature a variety of customized and unique ballpark elements in support of PLAY BALL WEEKEND, with popular examples including pre-game parades of young players on the field and cap gifts from Major League players to youth league players. Additionally, Clubs will collectively distribute more than 320,000 plastic bat & ball sets throughout the United States and Canada, both in ballparks and at community events.
In addition to in-ballpark support, many Clubs will host specialized activities throughout their respective communities to encourage participation and highlight the fun of youth baseball and softball. Examples include MLB players hosting clinics, playing opportunities at unique locations (i.e., event at the beach in Los Angeles), surprise visits at youth baseball fields and games, special contests for youth leagues and teams, kids-only press conferences, ticket and equipment donations, and many more. Clubs will announce these activations separately.
Additionally, Major League players, coaches and managers all will wear specially made PLAY BALL t-shirts during batting practice and PLAY BALL patches on their uniforms during the weekend's games. Many home ballparks will feature PLAY BALL field stencils and will run in-ballpark public service announcements in support of the PLAY BALL initiative. The effort will be bolstered by a national television and radio advertising campaign as well as customized local advertising campaigns by Clubs, including digital and social media promotions.
Organizations such as USA Baseball, ESPN, Little League International, Ripken Baseball and PONY Baseball and Softball also will support PLAY BALL WEEKEND. USA Baseball will promote the initiative to its membership and support MLB Club activations with appearances by Team USA coaches and staff. ESPN and Little League will renew an effort, which launched during the 2015 Championship Season, to highlight Little League Baseball during Sunday Night Baseball and Baseball Tonight broadcasts. The first activation of the 2016 campaign will be Sunday, May 15th at Dodger Stadium. Little League also will host PLAY BALL WEEKEND activities at the Little League World Series facility in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Ripken Baseball and PONY will provide digital and social media promotional support.
PLAY BALL WEEKEND is proudly supported by MLB corporate sponsor Scotts. Scotts and MLB will be joined by Hall of Famer and MLB Youth Programs Senior Advisor Cal Ripken, Jr. in Ladson, South Carolina to launch the first of six youth baseball and softball field refurbishments that will take place during the 2016 Championship Season under the "It's Good Out Here™" Field Refurbishment Program. As part of the renewed national partnership announced earlier this year, Scotts and MLB have pledged to refurbish youth ball fields around the country over the next three seasons.
PLAY BALL is a joint initiative between MLB and USA Baseball. In addition to encouraging participation in both formal and casual baseball activities, PLAY BALL aims to give kids the opportunity to enjoy the game in a fun environment by highlighting the many ways baseball can be played and providing memorable experiences; introduce young people to the sport who otherwise may not have the chance to experience it; and offer a healthy and active lifestyle options where many of those opportunities are being offered less frequently.
PlayBall.org is the PLAY BALL initiative's online home and is accessible via MLB.com, USABaseball.com and other partner websites. PlayBall.org features youth-oriented content, including baseball trivia and quizzes, and video highlights from MLB games, social media content, photos and a "PlayBall Near You" interactive map that locates local community leagues. The site also features access to video podcasts and highlights from MLB Network's new youth-focused show "Play Ball," which features interviews and on-field demonstrations with top players throughout the League, including Nolan Arenado, Curtis Granderson, Matt Kemp, Francisco Lindor and Evan Longoria. "Play Ball" airs on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m. ET. PlayBall.org also links to USABaseball.com, which provides players, parents and coaches with the information and resources to help with proper play and instruction, including education videos featuring Hall of Famer and MLB Network analyst John Smoltz, Chicago Cubs Manager Joe Maddon, and Kansas City Royals Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Dayton Moore, among others. Health and safety information, including through the Pitch Smart and Play Sun Smart programs, also is available.
Major League Baseball operates and supports a variety of youth-focused programs and events designed to provide opportunities to play baseball and softball while also fostering the future prosperity of the game. These programs include Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), MLB Urban Youth Academies, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund (a joint initiative with the MLBPA), the Breakthrough Series and more.