Manfred touts youth initiatives at RBI World Series

Commissioner also discusses Ichiro's milestone, A-Rod, pace of play

Manfred touts youth initiatives at RBI World Series

CINCINNATI -- MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred was on hand Monday afternoon to watch the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) World Series championship game for the senior division between the Arizona and Passaic, N.J., RBI teams.

The game, which Arizona won, 3-2, is part of what has been an extremely successful youth initiative for MLB.

"It's the single most important thing that we're doing," Manfred said. "This is part of a larger initiative that we refer to as Play Ball, and it's directed in ensuring that baseball gets passed on to the next generation so that we have fans like we have today 20 years from now. It's about our future."

Manfred addressed a wide array of topics during his visit to the P&G Cincinnati Urban Youth Academy, from Ichiro Suzuki's 3,000th hit to the Olympics.

Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities World Series coverage

"The fact of the matter is the game has changed in terms of the way it's played, and the question is: Are we going to manage it a little more closely to make sure that the product is as good as it can be on the field?" he said.

Manfred also addressed baseball and softball returning to the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, an idea for which he was a strong advocate. Manfred and additional representatives of the Commissioner's Office have scheduled meetings with Olympic officials following the completion of the Rio Games to talk about the logistics of baseball returning.

"There are large chunks of the world where baseball is the most popular game. ... And I think the Olympics are doing the right thing by trying to include baseball and softball," Manfred said. "The logistics remain an issue that we're going to need to spend some time on, in terms of the availability of players."

Additionally, Manfred addressed a series of recent happenings in the game, including Ichiro's milestone. Ichiro became the 30th player to reach 3,000 hits on Sunday afternoon in Colorado, and he is the first MLB player to debut after age 25 and reach the milestone.

"Ichiro's accomplishments speak for themselves," Manfred said. "To have the sort of career that he had in Japan and then come here and get 3,000 hits, it's just unbelievable. He is a class individual and a real tribute to the game."

Regarding the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez possibly playing his final game on Friday, before he becomes a special advisor to the team, Manfred lauded Rodriguez's efforts since returning from his full-season suspension in 2014.

"Alex has worked very hard since he came back from the suspension to do the right thing," Manfred said. "I think that he found a way to go out on his own terms with the Yankees being fully supportive, and that's a good thing."

Cody Pace is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.