Baseballs legendary rivals will play in London next season. (Charles Krupa / AP)
Two of the most popular Major League Baseball games will play in London next season, in the league's first regular season in Europe. The Red Sox and Yankees games next June at London Stadium, capacity 55,000, will make baseball the last major American sport to come to the European market.
And yes, British baseball supporters, the masses who play the games in "Ballpark" – the usual home of West Ham United FC – and on television will have a good idea of what's going to happen to the game.
"I would go back to the NFL if they came to the UK and many people had the same concerns," said Gerry Perez, an American emigrant who is now the president of the British Baseball Federation, the umbrella organization of the game across the pond , "They will not know all the rules, but they'll get to know the general principles of the sport, they'll know what it's like to strike, what kind of running on the bases, all that." And London is a very cosmopolitan city American football, basketball, baseball, there are fans who love it, Londoners … know what the game is about, and they'll be fans. "
The NFL has been playing in England since 2007 every year. Every game, including slumbering between the jets and dolphins, has attracted a sold-out crowd. Also, the regular season games of the NBA in the O2 Arena since 2011 were popular.
But Commissioner Rob Manfred told the Evening Standard that MLB has targeted London regardless of football and basketball successes overseas.
"We think that London is the perfect location and we look forward to creating one of the big rivalries," he said.
That may be because baseball can trace some of its history back to an 18th-century British ball and stick game.
Called "Rounders", it's basically baseball without the strike zone or gloves. You get a good tone, you swing it. The defense is trying to throw you at one of four bases. Crossing the fourth base will give you an all-rounder for your team.
It's still a common breeze in the UK, popular in schoolyards and backyards. More than 20 percent of English children between the ages of 11 and 15 reported that they play the "rounders" out of school, according to a study by the UK Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sports. Another 13 percent of the same age children said they play cricket, another ball and stick game in the British Isles.
"People are used to playing rackets and cricket in a plethora of schools [baseball]," Perez said. "You will get to know the basics."
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, second from left, called London "the perfect place" for baseball. (Alastair Grant / AP)
But that's about it, said Perez, aside from pockets of dedicated fans and players who are fans of one or two American teams and have studied the nuances of the game, such as the pitch range or the finer ones Points of the base run. And, Perez pointed out, it's not like all the Queen's horses and all the Queen's men study on "pass interference" and "unnecessary rudeness" when the NFL comes to town.
Baseball is a growing game in the UK, according to data collected by the Federation, which sponsors 33 clubs, from 28 a year ago. The clubs offer different levels of youth leagues as well as an attractive recreational game for adults.
BaseballSoftballUK, the association's youth development department reported a 17 percent increase in attendance in 2016. The Department of Digital Culture, Media and Sports did not do this survey for baseball participation in its 2016 study.
Since MLB announced its London series, Perez Phone has been buzzing almost throughout with people trying to get tickets or thinking about their Register children for the next season of games.
He said you're watching Saturday's youth games at Wormwood Scrubs Park in central London. In the morning, dozens of parents come to a two-acre piece of grass and set up temporary backstops and shelters. They lay bases and line fields and then 400 children play the game, which Walt Whitman called "a blessing for us".
"With these upcoming games," Perez said, "it will revolutionize the people who want to play the sport."
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