Manfred Dishes On MLB's Strategy To Expand International Footprint
One of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s "more successful initiatives has been expanding baseball’s footprint internationally," as games have "been played in Japan and Mexico already this season and the Red Sox and Yankees are scheduled to play in London June 29-30," according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. Manfred recently discussed MLB's efforts internationally in a Q&A. Below are excerpts from the conversation, some of which have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: Why is playing in London for the first time important to MLB?
Manfred: We see London as kind of a gateway to Europe, and Europe is a really important growth opportunity for baseball. We have 20 European players under contract to major league organizations. The next step is to take the game there live. It’s a natural progression from our perspective.
Q: Did you feel it was important that the Red Sox and Yankees were the first two teams to play in Europe?
Manfred: I did. I think that because there is a significant economic opportunity in Europe. We already have a television deal with (BT Sport in the United Kingdom) and ESPN where we’re showing 12 games a week (in Europe), and we’d like to do more from a media perspective. If you’re going to get people excited about the game, particularly in a city like London, bringing two great rivals is about the best plan you can come up with.
Q: Where do you think is the next place MLB can go internationally?
Manfred: Our international play plan is something we bargain with the union about. I just don’t want to get in front of them on that. But there are other places around the world that have significant baseball cultures that I think it’s important for us to visit. South Korea, obviously, would be one of those.
Q: It seems like the Red Sox have been proponents of playing internationally.
Manfred: I would go further than that. I think [Red Sox Owner John Henry and Chair Tom Werner] have been unwavering supporters of every game-growth initiative that we put out there. Youth, international, you name it. They’ve been behind it with both shoulders (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/16).