Major League Baseball is coming back to London, starting this summer with what American organisers describe as a “quickfire, non-stop action” version of the game being staged in Crystal Palace Park.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is on a whistle-stop tour of the United States to drum up new tourism business for the capital. Overnight he announced a renewal of the London series, last played pre-pandemic in 2019, with MLB games to be played at the Olympic Stadium from 2023.
But first there’s to be a day of what’s called MLB Home Run Derby X at Crystal Palace Park on July 9 this year – a modernising of “America’s game” for the 21st Century, with plenty of pyrotechnics, music acts and all-round entertainment.
“The field of play is smaller, but the action is bigger than ever,” MLB says of the format, which is undertaking a world tour that stops off in London, Seoul and Mexico City.
“Home Run Derby X sees teams of four go head-to-head… with points up for grabs on both offense and defense and additional scoring opportunities with target hits and hot streak balls.
“Teams will be made up of MLB Legends, Superstars, Rookies and new-to-the-game Wild Cards and they will represent four Major League Baseball clubs: Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees.
“If the on-field action wasn’t enough, MLB Home Run Derby X is bringing the noise through live music, baseball-inspired activities, ballpark food, fashion and gaming; providing a high-octane day out for all.”
In 2019, London’s Olympic Stadium staged the first MLB games to be played in Europe when Sox met the Yankees. The teams that will compete in London next year will be announced at a later date.
The latest initiative, Mayor Khan and the MLB officials said, aims to “increase the game’s popularity in the UK”.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said: “I’m excited to announce we are going to be back in London next summer.
“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.”
the MLB said it had struck a “long-term strategic partnership” with City Hall for the next five years.
“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,” Mayor Khan said.
“Major League Baseball’s commitment to London over a number of years is very exciting for our city.
“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.
The Home Run Derby X is the latest high-profile event to be announced for Crystal Palace Park, being staged under the management of the park’s new trust.
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