• Overall baseball participation increased by 7.7 percent and slow-pitch softball participation increased by 8.1 percent in 2016, with casual participation in both baseball and slow-pitch softball showing the highest growth.
• Play Ball
• Casual participation in baseball rose by 18.1 percent in 2016 and slow-pitch softball increased by 12.4 percent.
• Over the past five years, casual participation in baseball and slow-pitch softball is up 34 percent.
• Baseball and fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball have 10.25 million casual participants (not including those who play in organized leagues), more than any other sport.
“No goal is more important to Major League Baseball than making baseball and softball accessible and to engage with children in all communities,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said. “The results of the SFIA report demonstrate that participation in baseball and softball is growing. We are encouraged by the success of the Play Ball initiative toward our objectives and grateful for partnerships with USA Baseball, USA Softball and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Together, we will continue to work to provide memorable experiences for young people, especially those from underserved areas.”
Play Ball, launched in 2015, is the sport’s largest collective effort to encourage young people to participate in baseball- or softball-related activities, including formal leagues, special events and casual forms of play. These events have become MLB’s signature youth-engagement activity. The initiative highlights the fun and community-focused natures of the game at the Major League, professional, amateur and youth levels.
“While this progress is encouraging, we remain steadfast in furthering the many sport development initiatives that have helped to make this growth possible,” said Paul Seiler, executive director/CEO of USA Baseball. “The collective effort being led by MLB, its 30 clubs, USA Baseball and USA Softball, as well as the support of the many national amateur organizations around the country, is having a discernible impact on families and communities in the United States.”
The increase in youth participation speaks to the effectiveness of Play Ball, and also the exciting crop of 25-and-under MLB stars — such as Mike Trout , Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge and Carlos Correa — who have energized young fans around the world.
“The growth in baseball and softball participation is significant as traditional team sports do not usually see these kind of double-digit increases,” SFIA president and CEO Tom Cove said. “These numbers suggest something special is happening with baseball and softball. We believe basic efforts to put a ball, bat and glove in more young people’s hands really connect with the joy of the game. The biggest increases are in casual participation, and this uptick represents a huge opportunity for the baseball and softball community to build ongoing and deeper player engagement with the game in the future.”
More than 200 mayors will participate in Play Ball this summer to help encourage children to lead healthy and active lifestyles. “The numbers being released today on the growth of baseball and softball in our cities by young people shows that our efforts are working,” Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Source : MLB