American baseball matches to return to London next year

·3-min read
American baseball matches to return to London next year

American baseball matches are to return to London next year, it was announced on Monday evening.

The Major League Baseball organisation, which oversees the professional game in the US, said “regular season” competitive matches would be held at the London Stadium in 2023, 2024 and 2026.

The two matches played between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees at the former Olympic stadium in June 2019 were the first time US baseball had been played in Europe. Both matches were won by the Yankees.

Boston Red Sox during the MLB London Series Match at The London Stadium in 2019 (PA)
Boston Red Sox during the MLB London Series Match at The London Stadium in 2019 (PA)

Two matches were planned between the St Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs at the London Stadium in 2020 but these had to be cancelled due to the pandemic.

The MLB announced its return to London during a visit on Monday to its New York headquarters by mayor Sadiq Khan who is on a five-day trip to the US.

Both said the wider aim was to increase the game’s popularity in the UK. Events start this summer with an “electrifying new format” called Home Run Derby X, which will be held in Crystal Palace park on July 9.

The teams that will compete in London next year will be announced at a later date.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with players of the Boston Red Sox as they attend the Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees baseball game at the London Stadium in support of the Invictus Games Foundation in 2019 (Getty Images)
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex with players of the Boston Red Sox as they attend the Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees baseball game at the London Stadium in support of the Invictus Games Foundation in 2019 (Getty Images)

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said: “I’m excited to announce we are going to continue our partnership. We will be back in London next summer.

“I know we are going to top the Yankees and the Red Sox next summer when we announce our teams and the dates. We are really glad to be back [in London] next year and to have a continuing relationship.”

He added: “All aspects of the inaugural MLB games in London were an overwhelming success.

“It was clear that sports fans in London had a great appetite for baseball and that passion was shared by Mayor Khan as well as the business and media community.

“We are confident in making a long-term commitment to London and are looking forward to returning to the city with more MLB games, special fan events, and other opportunities to play and watch the game.”

There will be “major events” for each of the next five years under a “long-term strategic partnership” with City Hall.

Mr Khan hailed an “historic day for London and baseball” and said it showcased the former Olympic stadium’s many uses post-2012.

 (PA)
(PA)

He is due to attend the San Francisco Giants v Colorado Rockies baseball game on Tuesday and throw the first pitch.

Mr Khan said: “This long-term partnership with Major League Baseball is ambitious and includes regular season games as well as a legacy programme designed to grow the number of Londoners watching and playing baseball at a grassroots level in London.

“Major League Baseball’s commitment to London over a number of years is very exciting for our city.

“My ambition is for London to be the sporting capital of the world. In 2019 the Yankees and the Red Sox was just an amazing set of games.

“The pandemic came at the wrong time for a variety of reasons but we are so excited to have you come back to the London stadium [and] see some great baseball.”

New York Yankees bat during their MLB London Series game vs  Boston Red Sox  at London Stadium in 2019 (Getty Images)
New York Yankees bat during their MLB London Series game vs Boston Red Sox at London Stadium in 2019 (Getty Images)

A MLB London Legacy Group is being formed, including members from the Greater London Authority, Baseball Softball UK and other key stakeholders in the UK.

Mr Khan thanked the MLB for its support of grassroots sport in London.

“It’s wonderful to see boys and girls playing with elite athletes, and your commitment to making sure softball and baseball endures among young people,” he said.

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