Having two of the sport’s biggest teams playing the first Major League Baseball (MLB) regular-season games in Europe would be massive for baseball’s exposure and growth in the United Kingdom, said Liam Carroll, Great Britain national team head coach.
“It’s a cliche that’s been thrown around by a number of people, but I would view this as a game changer,” said Carroll, who was at MLB’s Academies Tournament in Barcelona. “The British Baseball Federation, BaseballSoftballUK, and all the clubs have to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.”
The latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, ratified in 2016, included a commitment from MLB players to compete in multiple overseas destinations, with London being the only city announced in the document. According to the Associated Press, the Yankees and Red Sox have been talking to the league about playing in England’s capital for years.
The series, tentatively scheduled for June 29-30, 2019, would take place after the 2018/19 English Premier League season concludes and prior to London Stadium, home to West Ham United F.C., needing to be made available for summer track and field events.
MLB hopes to make an announcement in the next two months, according to ESPN.
“We were always hoping we would get at least one of those two clubs,” Carroll said. “To be honest, it’s a bit of a surprise it’s both the Yankees and Red Sox; kudos to MLB to have the chops to go that big out of the gate. They’re making a tremendous statement and it will be very interesting to see what impact it has on coverage.”
Playing abroad is nothing new for MLB. In fact, the league is playing regular-season games in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Monterrey, Mexico, this season. MLB has played regular-season games in Monterrey (1996, ’99), Tokyo (2000, ’04, ’08, ’12) and Sydney (2014).
MLB also hosted a home run derby of former big league all-stars at London’s Hyde Park in 2017 as part of the MLB Battlegrounds exhibition to promote baseball in the U.K. and Europe.
“MLB has been smart with how they’ve tested the market,” Carroll said. “They’ve done some smart things to gauge interest and it’s given them all the evidence to host a game and knowing a lot of people will come out to watch.”