Major League Baseball will be played in London next June

Sat 5 May 2018

Tuesday 8 May 2018 -- Major League Baseball will be played in London in 2019 – and in a very real sense, that means the game is coming home.

One of the most fabled rivalries in sport will be transplanted to English soil, where baseball had its origins, on 29 and 30 June next year when the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox square off in a two-game regular-season series at the London Stadium, the centrepiece of the 2012 Olympic Games.

The long-awaited announcement was made at a press conference earlier today by London Mayor Sadiq Kahn and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.  The games themselves will be surrounded by an exciting range of events and activities related to baseball and to the cultures of the rival teams from Boston and New York.

MLB has announced a special pre-registration for priority access to tickets through through mlb.com/londonseries. Further details will be released soon on the timing of the games and ticket arrangements, but even with a capacity of 55,000, the London Stadium games are expected to be sell-outs.

Aerial view of the London Stadium
The London Stadium will host the 2019 MLB game


London success

The games in London are part of MLB’s efforts to market Major League Baseball around the globe and to promote the development of baseball and softball as world and Olympic sports.  Previously, regular-season MLB games have been played in Japan, Australia, Mexico and Puerto Rico, but these will be the first Major League games to be played in Europe.

Thanks in large part to the ongoing efforts of London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, MLB chose London  to host the games. Manfred today joked that this was because Khan was one of the only major city mayors to have prior experience of throwing out the first pitch of an MLB game – which he did when he visited a New York Mets game in September 2016.

Currently, with the 2018 Major League Baseball season just over a month old, the Red Sox and the Yankees have emerged as two of the most dominant and exciting teams in the sport, and are engaged in a tight contest to win the title in the American League East.

Asked about the possibility of a Major League Baseball franchise being based in London, Manfred said, “Let’s walk before we run. In terms of a franchise here long term, it is our intention to be in London more than once, to play games here, to see if we can develop a fan base […]. Because of our schedule, there are inherent limitations in terms of how much travel you can actually do. But hopefully as the distance between countries continues to shrink, we will have an opportunity to look at places like London as a permanent home.”

Mayor Khan warned his American friends to “be prepared for the most exciting games because we are London, the best sporting city in the world”. He continued, “The fun begins now. The Commissioner has already agreed to do lots of work with community groups, with grass roots organisations”.


Slowpitch softball game in Hyde Park
Slowpitch softball in London's Hyde Park


Development opportunity

For BaseballSoftballUK, the government-funded development agency for the two sports in Britain, the MLB games will present a unique opportunity to raise awareness of baseball and softball in London and around the country.

Between now and the appearance of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at the London Stadium in just over 13 months’ time, Major League Baseball International and BaseballSoftballUK will be working together to generate excitement around this historic sporting event, and to create more opportunities for people to play the sports, with a series of events and programmes to be announced at a later date.

BaseballSoftballUK CEO John Boyd said, “Major League Baseball bringing regular-season games to London has been under discussion for a while, but today’s announcement makes it a wonderful reality.  The fact that the teams coming to the London Stadium are the Yankees and the Red Sox, two of the sport’s most iconic franchises, makes it even better. 

“Our sports are the hidden secret of the capital, but actually you can’t walk very far each summer without seeing people swinging a bat.  Almost every advertising agency, bank, charity, legal firm or surveyors company in London has a team and there are hundreds of club teams dotted across the city offering playing opportunities to young and old, experienced or new and male or female players.

“This means that when the MLB games come here,” John added, “they won’t just be about spectating and entertainment – they will also be about doing sport and physical activity, about health, socialising, belonging and community.

“Our job is to make sure that all those people who will be interested in this event, along with those who will fill the London Stadium for the two games, are aware of the opportunities that exist, not just in London but all around the UK, to play baseball and softball at every level from children and adult beginners to local and national leagues and national teams.

“We are tremendously excited by the chance this event will give us to showcase our sports, and the boost that the MLB games in London will give to our many programmes designed to develop baseball and softball in every part of the country.”


Players gather at BSUK Academy baseball session
A BSUK Academy Baseball session


Raising the numbers

With the help of significant government funding from Sport England since 2005, BaseballSoftballUK has already made great strides in giving the games a place in British sporting life, more than doubling the number of participants from around 10,000 in 2008 to over 24,000 in 2017.

Major League Baseball International has been another important partner, providing support for youth development activities and player development through BaseballSoftballUK’s Academy and High Performance Academy.

Funding from both Sport England and the Major League Baseball Players Association helped BaseballSoftballUK build the country’s first dedicated baseball and softball complex, which opened in 2013 at Farnham Park, near Slough, and now serves as a national centre for the two sports, hosting league games, national championships, international tournaments and a range of development programmes for the local community.

Packed stands at Farnham Park Baseball & Softball Complex
Farnham Park Baseball & Softball Complex

The two sports had a further boost when it was recently announced that baseball and softball would be restored to the programme for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as male and female versions of one sport. Over the next 18 months, both the Great Britain Men’s Baseball Team and the Great Britain Women’s Fastpitch Softball Team will be trying to qualify to be the European representative at the Tokyo Olympics.


British roots

Baseball historians have long been aware that the sport had its roots in a variety of English games and pastimes, despite many Americans believing that baseball was invented in 1839 by Abner Doubleday, later a Northern general in the American Civil War. 

A recent discovery that a prominent member of the British royal family played “base ball” more than 250 years ago in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey has cemented the game’s origins on this side of the Atlantic.

Baseball in its modern form in Britain can be traced back to the late 19th century, and the sport enjoyed its greatest popularity here before World War II.  In 1938, a Great Britain Baseball Team triumphed by four games to one over a US team in what was later designated the first Amateur Baseball World Championship.

Currently, there are baseball clubs and teams in major towns and cities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, a thriving youth scene, National Championships each September and national teams at different age levels.

Softball, a sister sport to baseball, began here in the 1950s and took off in the 1980s.  Today, it is a bigger sport than baseball, with thriving leagues all over the country for players of all ages. 

Softball is particularly welcoming to LGBT+ players, who make up 14% of the playing population, and women and girls, who make up 42%.  There are nine different softball national teams in different formats and age levels, and Great Britain has won 10 straight European Championships in slowpitch softball and is ranked third in Europe in the Olympic format of women’s fastpitch softball.

Aston Villa baseball team photo 1890
Aston Villa, the first British baseball champions in 1890


Watch the full MLB press conference

Held 8 May 2018

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