LONDON (AP) A piece of American sports culture was on display Tuesday in London’s Hyde Park as baseball came to town on July 4, the U.S. Independence Day.
The exhibition featured several former major leaguers playing a Home Run Derby in one of London’s best-known open spaces.
It’s part of Major League Baseball’s plan to showcase the game to build interest in Britain and Europe, a region where soccer is the overwhelmingly favorite sport. The move comes during the summer hiatus in England’s Premier League.
Charlie Hill, the managing director of Major League Baseball for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says it’s possible that some regular-season games will be played in London as soon as the 2019 season.
”The teams are enthusiastic,” he said. ”That is the target and it’s becoming the expectation.”
If MLB league games are played in London in two years, baseball will still be way behind the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, which have played official games in Britain for years.
Hill said the exhibition was a Home Run Derby, similar to the one that precedes the league’s All-Star Game, an easy-to-understand demonstration of hitting prowess.
One concern is that baseball’s somewhat arcane rules might make the game seem incomprehensible to Britons – much as Americans can be slow to grasp the finer points of cricket.
”We don’t want to play games here from a cold start,” Hill said.
John Boyd, who heads Baseball Softball UK, said there’s already strong interest in the game. He says there’s an estimated 1.5 million baseball fans in Britain, partly because it’s become so much easier to watch live games.