Home MLB MLB sizing up the London Olympic Park for 2017

MLB sizing up the London Olympic Park for 2017

by Matt Smith

Regular visitors to BaseballGB will already know that MLB has been looking at the potential of bringing some games to London, with talks going on for over a year as to how that may be achieved.

The Telegraph has now picked up on the story as plans to use the Olympic Stadium in London have progressed to a more advanced stage. MLB aren’t formally commenting on the rumours at the moment, but there are positive signs that we may get to see some MLB games in the UK in 2017, which will be a real treat for baseball fans here and across Europe.

To add one more detail to the story, I noticed a few weeks ago that Murray Cook, who does a variety of work in relation to MLB and baseball grounds-keeping, was in London recently.

One place he visited while here was the 2012 Olympic Stadium, at the time set up to host an England vs New Zealand rugby league fixture.

This may have just been part of Murray’s wider outlook on his profession and looking at different venues and how they can be adapted for different sports. However, it’s likely he was undertaking a bit of reconnaissance work around converting the stadium for baseball purposes. MLB International’s Clive Russell is quoted in the Telegraph article (a quote from 2012) that “[the] stadium, the way it’s built, actually is big enough for a baseball game … It’s not perfect, but it has some real potential”.

As I’ve previously noted, outside of getting a suitable venue, the main hurdle for MLB in bringing games to Europe is how to fit the travel and time-difference issues within the jam-packed regular season schedule, as the previous international game route of playing games during Spring Training in March isn’t a realistic option due to the less-than-ideal weather risk.

The most likely scenario will be for the games to take place around the All-Star break in mid-July (the 2017 All-Star Game will be in Miami).

Nothing is guaranteed until deals have been agreed and signed, but there’s definitely reason for baseball fans to get a bit excited about the prospect of MLB coming to the UK in July 2017, if not within a few years of then.

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John November 26, 2015 - 9:22 pm

I’m sure this makes me a hyprocrite given that I am an NFL fan who has attended an International Series game at Wembley, but I hope these plans do not come to fruition. At least with American Football a sizeable, knowledgeable fanbase has existed in this country for a few decades. The few UK baseball fans that I know are exactly that, fanatical. But is there really a demand for baseball in this country, at least to the point where most of the stadium will be filled with fans who are legitimately interested in the game? The answer is an emphatic no. Much like the NBA games at the O2, these games will be made up of less than 5% hardcore fans, with over 95% of people watching a baseball game for the first time. I appreciate that there is also a ‘growing the game’; argument here, but I personally would prefer to see the game grow at a national grassroots level before sides from the Majors come over. Without that foundation of knowledge and passion, these games reek of little more than a cynical money making scheme.

Matt Smith November 28, 2015 - 10:40 am

I see your point. I think the starting position for MLB is that even if it’s 90% curious people, that’s still an event that will get the sport some publicity in the press and you’ve got to start somewhere. There is a decent national youth set-up emerging but the key will always be in getting more people playing – something that may come out of the significant rise in schools playing softball in recent years – and so anything that promotes the sport here seems a good thing to me.

John December 2, 2015 - 8:23 am

If we truly want to grow the game, it must start with increased government funding – 1 new ballpark in the entire country is ludicrous. I simply cannot see most attending the games viewing it as anything other than a passing curiousity, that will be forgetten about until the next time it rolls into town. It really depends on the intentions of MLB (i.e. if they have designs on establishing a franchise here as the NFL does, which seems extremely unlikely), how much money they are prepared to spend to advertise the game, and whether or not BT Sport continues to televise as many or more live games as they do now for the forseeable future. If all of these factors are not in place, one regular season series will have a completely negligable effect on the attitude towards baseball over here.


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