Major League Baseball seems to have taken the first steps towards getting into England. A Home Run Derby will be hosted at Hyde Park in London. The exhibition is set to take place on July 4. Former MLB players Cliff Floyd, Shawn Green, and Carlos Pena are slated to participate.
In a release from Bleacher Report, this is part of an experiment called MLB Battlegrounds. The format will have Team Boston against Team Los Angeles. It’s a way to bring baseball of the highest level to England. This is all in part of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s goal to increase international exposure for Major League Baseball.
Is this the first step in regular Major League Baseball play in England? If so, is that the best idea?
It’s clear that Manfred is attempting to keep up with the National Football League in international popularity. The goal is admirable. However, the practicality for MLB is lower. Travel time alone will be a major issue. Teams in the NFL play one game per week. MLB teams could potentially play seven. The back-and-forth flights, especially for as long as they take, just doesn’t make sense.
The only way it works, is if Major League Baseball sends two teams to England, to play an entire series. A four-game series would be optimal. Even then, you would have to allow a few days off prior to the series for travel. And again, a few days off afterwards for travel. This could set schedules behind.
A more realistic step is increased exposure to the other two North American countries. Canada already has a Major League team. They are primed for a second. It’s highly unlikely that MLB would run into another Montreal Expos situation. Canada could be home to at least one more baseball team. Mexico has no MLB team. Getting one there is a smart move. After a decent length of time with one team, Manfred could explore the idea of a second.
Exploring options “closer to home” is a better way to slowly grow international attention. Major League Baseball may very well end up playing in England one day. However, the right time is not now. Sticking to a Home Run Derby, and other showcase events, is all England baseball fans will have for now.
Follow Blake Cole on Twitter (@blakeacole) for more on the baseball journey to London, England, and other news and notes from MLB and MiLB.