On a scorching Tuesday afternoon in London, we at Bat Flips and Nerds were asked to join MLB UK at the Regent Street Cinema for a rather important announcement.
Sadiq Khan was joined by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball — Rob Manfred — to announce the latest international series for America’s Pastime. Officially titled London Series 19, a series of two games played between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, with Boston having “home-field advantage”.
The setting for the event was as the title suggests, a cinema. Except it’s been converted to have a stage in front of the screen to allow a panel of people space to sit and talk. I knew Commissioner Manfred and Sadiq Khan would be in attendance, but when I saw the other names listed, I was very excited. The “speaking parts” guest list consisted of:
- Commissioner of Baseball – Rob Manfred
- John Henry, Principal Owner of the Boston Red Sox
- Hal Steinbrenner, Managing General Partner of the New York Yankees
- Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, General Parter of the New York Yankees
- Sadiq Khan, Mayor Of London
- Tim Slavin from the MLB Players Association
- Fran Charles, of MLB Network
With the venue set and those in attendance announced, all we had to do is await their arrival. Unfortunately the 1300 start was pushed to 1330, which was then pushed to 1345 due to the London traffic. As a member of her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, I’m more than content to “Hurry up and wait”, especially when it’s for the MLB London Series.
While we waited, I had chance to check out of the “swag bag” that was provided. It contained some pretty neat gifts:
- Red Sox custom cap with London Series 19 on the side
- A rolled poster
- London Series 19 pen
- And my personal favourite the London Series 19 notepad
All contained in a London Series 19 tote bag.
No expense spared from MLB when it come to the location, drink, food, swag, people involved, it was a real push right from the beginning.
Once the delays were over, it was finally time for the presentation to begin. Up first to the podium was Fran Charles of MLB Network. He began by speaking about the greatest sports rivalry in the world and how amazing it will be for us all to see it up close and personal. After a short intro, he then introduced Commissioner Rob Manfred.
The Commissioner started by thanking everyone involved, Sadiq Khan, the players and the players association and finally to the clubs on working together to make sure this event happened. He made mention that this would be the biggest splash possible to hit the UK with baseball, taking arguably the most famous franchises and bringing them to our shores. The capacity of 55,000 was mentioned for London Stadium and after they had visited the stadium this morning, they were very excited to get started. The question of “Why London?” was asked, well Manfred made a joke about Sadiq Khan being the only Mayor from Europe to throw out a first pitch. He then commented on London having a great history of hosting sporting events and events in general. The commissioner then finished by saying this is the start of a relationship that should continue to grow and blossom.
Next up were John Henry and Hal Steinbrenner, who spoke individually on the rivalry and what it means to bring the series to the UK. They also both shared great excitement and honour on being the first teams to arrive next summer.
Tim Slavin from the players association also spent some time to say thank you to all parties involved. His big message was about inspiring people to try the game before, during and after the series had happened. He spoke passionately about people picking up a ball, a bat and/or a glove and heading out to gardens, fields, parks, to try and emulate America’s Pastime.
Finally Sadiq Khan stood up and started by calling London the “Capital of Sport”. He made mention to the other American sports that have arrived and succeeded over here and he sees no reason why baseball cannot be the same. He spoke of those who don’t even know what baseball is yet, how they will come down and watch these games and love what they see, the pure spectacle of baseball. Another mention of the great rivalry, until finishing off about the commissioner and his plans for the community. There was talk of working with local communities, teams, clubs, all to try and get the next Major League Baseball from the UK to be in the majors as soon as possible. His final line was all about welcoming people from around the world to come and see this event, talking of London being open to all. No matter your race, religion, background, sports interests, everyone is welcome in London.
Finally we in the audience were allowed to pose questions to the panel of guests. I won’t go into detail on all questions answered (Except for my own) but some of the important notes from the answers were:
- If there is any rainouts, the games will — unfortunately — be made up in the US.
- As much as the Mayor hoped for a franchise in the future, it’s highly unlikely due to the schedule.
- The Yankees have not considered this as a tax break for players (Ridiculous question)
After a rather gentle set of questions, I thought I would ask from a fans perspective. I started by thanking the panel for making such an event happen. I then asked the Commissioner if any other teams were consulted or considered for the series. He replied by making note that others were interested, but to really have an impact he felt that it had to be these two teams as the starter. I then followed up by asking Sadiq Khan if he preferred Mookie Betts or Aaron Judge. After an initial kerfuffle and calling Betts a pitcher, he quickly realised his mistake and commented on how great a hitter he is.
When Tom met Rob Manfred and Sadiq Khan
The event was ended and media interviews were conducted. Unfortunately the one-on-ones that I had requested, were not able to be completed due to timing issues. Which was a huge shame.
Overall the event was exciting, it was well planned, it answered a lot of initial questions and there was some free swag! Some will argue that questions about tickets, pricing, roster sizes, pre and post series events were not asked. However, the announcement — in my opinion — was not the day to ask those questions. Those sorts of details are nowhere near finalised and won’t even be considered for some time. I plan to write another post soon to tackle some of these questions and get a feel for what people are hoping and expecting.
It was an incredible day, one that I will never forget. I want to personally thank Charlie Hill and Maria O’Connor at MLB UK for making this happen for us. Roll on June 2019.
Here are some links for you to digest prior to our next post:
London Series announcement full video