NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Baseball have set their sights on staging regular season games in Europe, Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Thursday at the end of three days of team owners meetings.
“It is something we’d really like to do in 2019,” Manfred told reporters in a briefing at MLB headquarters in New York.
“We do think it’s time. Whether it’s 2019 or shortly thereafter that we play in Europe.”
MLB has already staged regular season games in Japan, Australia and Mexico.
Also on the international front, Manfred said work is being done to standardize the posting system that covers professional players shifting from other countries to MLB uniforms.
“We’d love to have a new system in place for the signing season 2017-2018,” Manfred said, noting that different rules apply to players coming to MLB from different countries.
Manfred said owners were given a report on the success of the recently staged World Baseball Classic and resisted the suggestion that the heightened level of pre-season competition had led to increased injuries on MLB teams this season.
“We reviewed with the owners today injury data from the WBC. Over time, including this last year, there is no statistical difference between injury rates for players that participated in the WBC and those that don‘t,” Manfred said.
Manfred was less than upbeat about initiatives to improve the pace-of-play on MLB diamonds, one of his pet peeves.
“We’ve probably gone backwards a little bit,” said Manfred with a note of frustration.
“I’ve had extensive conversations with (Players Association chief) Tony Clark about putting a series of meetings together to try and advance the ball on the pace of game issues.”
He said Clark had told him that the players had recommendations.
“There are things that can be done to try and improve on the pace-of-game time. We will continue to pursue that agenda.”
Manfred said baseball officials were heartened by a reported increase in youth participation by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.
The SFIA report said that with nearly 25 million participants, baseball and softball combined to rank as the most participated team sports in the United States last year.
It said that baseball participation increased by 7.7 percent and slow-pitch softball by 8.1 percent in 2016.
“This is not a trend we are seeing with other team sports,” said Manfred.
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Toby Davis