Mayors join forces for Play Ball Summer

Youth events will take place across U.S., Puerto Rico through August

At an event that has featured such speakers as the Dalai Lama, Lady Gaga and Hillary Clinton, Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball joined forces at the 84th U.S. Conference of Mayors in Indianapolis to introduce "Play Ball Summer" -- a renewal of support for the Play Ball initiative by hundreds of mayors.

Play Ball Summer is an effort by more than 200 mayors from the U.S. and Puerto Rico to host Play Ball-themed, youth-focused events in their communities from June through August. The announcement, released on Monday, was formally made on Saturday's agenda by MLB vice president of community affairs Tom Brasuell and Minor League president and CEO Pat O'Conner, as well as USCM representatives.

Participating mayors and their cities are listed on the official pledge roster, which is also available at playball.org. Additional mayors and cities are expected to join the effort in coming weeks.

Play Ball

"Mayors are pleased again this year to join Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball in bringing the fun and enjoyment of baseball to our cities," said USCM president Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City. "I am proud to have already participated in a Play Ball event in my city and look forward to seeing other mayors across the country celebrate our great national pastime."

Play Ball Summer will encourage mayors to host activities to engage citizens, families and city departments to organize individual and community-based events -- like playing catch, "running bases" in the backyard, family gatherings, park and recreation activities, and business-supported activities. These activities will be focused on connecting families and communities with the game through baseball-related activities.

Last August, "Play Ball Month" was declared by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and all mayors who pledged to be involved subsequently implemented their own versions to connect the national pastime with communities, especially those in urban and underserved areas. Play Ball is a joint program from MLB, USA Baseball, USA Softball and MiLB that focuses on the fun nature of baseball and softball to encourage pursuit of those activities.

"The support from the U.S. Conference of Mayors last year helped raise tremendous awareness for Play Ball, and we are very pleased to expand that partnership in 2016 with Play Ball Summer," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Baseball is a safe game that is enjoyed by people of all ages, and through the Play Ball program and the support of the mayors, we are looking forward to continuing to strengthen the bonds between our game and our country's communities."

"The support of the U.S. Conference of Mayors has been invaluable to the Play Ball initiative as we seek to get more young people across the country playing baseball and softball," O'Conner said. "Many of these mayors represent cities that are home to Minor League Baseball teams and we look forward to continuing this partnership to encourage children to play ball."

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Play Ball Summer has focused on recruiting a minimum of one city in as many of the 50 states and Puerto Rico as possible. Primary targets are cities with Major League and Minor League clubs, with the initiative toolkit and self-reporting strategy electronically distributed to hundreds of cities across the country with the assistance of MLB and MiLB. Local leaders and citizens will report their activities to usmayors.org/playball.

Cal Ripken Jr., the Hall of Famer and MLB senior advisor for youth programs, addressed the U.S. Conference of Mayors at the start of this year in Washington and told them why the "Play Ball Summer" campaign would be so important.

"One thing I've learned is that kids nowadays need to be directed," Ripken said. "They're used to being organized in every part of their schedule. They go from one thing to another, and even in their free period of time, they have to be directed."

Tom Cochran, the USCM CEO and executive director, said it his group's pleasure to join forces in helping to make that a reality.

"The Conference of Mayors is honored to once again join Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball in its Play Ball program," Cochran said. "We are pleased with the record number of mayors who have made commitments to sponsor a Play Ball activity in their cities this summer."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.