MLB London Series
|MLB London Series|
London, England, UK
|Television||Fox (Game 1)|
ESPN (Game 2)
The MLB London Series was a two-year arrangement for Major League Baseball (MLB) to play a total of four regular season games at London Stadium in London, England, in 2019 and 2020. Sponsored by Mitel, it was branded as Mitel & MLB Present London Series. These were the first MLB games ever played in Europe.
The first games were played on June 29–30, 2019, with the Boston Red Sox hosting two games against the New York Yankees. The second set of games were scheduled for June 13–14, 2020, with the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Chicago Cubs, but were cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 8, 2018, MLB announced a two-year agreement to hold baseball games at London Stadium during the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The inaugural series was played between the Red Sox and Yankees, longtime divisional rivals.
Outside of the contiguous United States and Canada, MLB has previously held regular season games in Australia, Japan, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, and has held spring training games in China, but has never held any games in Europe. The National Football League has similarly held regular-season games in London—primarily at Wembley Stadium—under the banner of the NFL London Games. The NFL has developed a large fanbase in the United Kingdom, and as of 2018, the games at Wembley had attracted an average attendance of 85,031. The NBA has similarly held games in London as part of its Global Games series.
Kelhem Salter, MLB's director of growth and strategy in the EMEA region, noted that Europe was a "key growth market" for the league, and that Londoners were "big event-goers" and frequently sell-out events held there. Unlike the other countries where MLB has held international games, baseball is not as popular and established in the United Kingdom. Salter explained that the league wanted to differentiate its efforts in London from those of other leagues, by emphasizing a "connection to culture and the culture of the specific cities that our teams represent" to engage with new fans. In May 2018, the league began a year-long cultural program entitled "The 108" (referring to the number of stitches on a standard baseball) to promote the London games, encompassing a series of zines profiling MLB teams, as well as "The 108 Sessions" — a series of live concert events at local venues featuring acts representing the teams' cities. The campaign is designed to "build a genuine dialogue and relationship with cultural scenes that reflect those of the MLB home cities."
The 2020 series was scheduled to take place June 13–14, at London Stadium, with the Chicago Cubs playing the St. Louis Cardinals. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the games were cancelled. Commissioner Rob Manfred stated that "it was unlikely the events would go forward, and timely cancellation allowed us to preserve important financial resources". The start of the 2020 season was delayed due to the pandemic, and MLB cancelled other planned games in Puerto Rico and Mexico for similar reasons.
Locating a venue with the correct dimensions required for a baseball field was difficult, especially as the majority of stadiums in the London region are primarily designed for soccer. MLB officials had evaluated multiple options (including cricket fields such as The Oval), before finalizing London Stadium as the site. The facility was originally constructed for the 2012 Summer Olympics; in late-2015, it was reported that MLB officials had measured the stadium's dimensions and considered it potentially suitable for baseball, and had negotiated the possibility of holding games there.
MLB developed a plan to adapt London Stadium for the games to make it resemble an MLB ballpark, via installation of a new baseball field as an overlay on top of the stadium's existing running track and pitch, with a seating configuration to emulate the more "intimate" layout and fan experiences of MLB ballparks. Materials to construct the playing surface include approximately 142,000 square feet (13,200 m2) of FieldTurf, and clay for the pitcher's mound and home plate area sourced from Pennsylvania. As the facility's locker rooms are smaller and suited towards soccer, larger, MLB-style clubhouses were built within the stadium. As done at Toronto's Rogers Centre, dimensions from home plate were posted in both feet and meters: 330 feet (100.6 m) to the foul poles and 385 feet (117.4 m) to center field, with a 16-foot (4.9 m) fence. The dimensions were described as being potentially hitter-friendly. The two points in left center and right center where the temporary fences join the wall in center field area are slightly closer than center, marked as 382 feet (116.4 m). As the roof overhangs the home plate area, there is a ground rule that balls hitting the roof are considered dead.
|Year||Date||Away team||Score||Home team||City||Stadium||Attendance|
|2019||June 29||New York Yankees||17–13||Boston Red Sox||London||London Stadium||59,659|
|June 30||New York Yankees||12–8||Boston Red Sox||59,059|
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- ""We don't want to emulate the NFL and NBA": How MLB is planning to create its own London identity". SportsPro. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
- "MLB Steps Up the Build to Its First Ever London Game by Launching 'The 108' Zine and Live Music Night". Complex. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
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- "Yankees-Red Sox Games in London Next June Could Be Home Run Derbies". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2018.
- Blum, Ronald (June 28, 2019). "High cheese comes to land of high tea: Yanks vs Red Sox". New Haven Register. AP. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
- "Fox, ESPN will each broadcast a game of the London Series". sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved January 2, 2019.