HOFers Larkin, Rivera to launch pro league in Dubai
The United International Baseball League (UIBL) announced Monday its plan to bring professional baseball to India, Pakistan, and the Middle East, beginning with an inaugural showcase that will take place in Dubai in February 2023. The UIBL has partnered with Hall-of-Famers Mariano Rivera and Barry Larkin to help “build, develop and grow the league,” according to a press release.
“The Indian Subcontinent and the Middle East region are home to two billion people. More than 900 million of those people are fans of cricket — the world’s most popular bat and ball sport. While baseball exists in small pockets across South Asia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, there is an absence of professional leagues and a void of deep, grassroots player development expertise and infrastructure. The UIBL team is looking to change that,” the release said.
A career-long member of the New York Yankees who made 13 All-Star games, won five World Series and is MLB’s all-time leader in saves (652), Rivera was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019. Larkin spent his entire big league career with the Cincinnati Reds, won an MVP award, one World Series title and was selected to 12 All-Star teams, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.
“I’m very grateful to be a part of the UIBL’s exciting mission to inspire two billion new fans to fall in love with baseball,” Rivera said, per the release. “We believe there is an amazing opportunity to educate, inspire and entertain those cricket fans, and open their hearts to an exciting and culturally-relevant form of baseball.”
“We truly believe that player development has to start at the grassroots level,” Larkin added. “I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life focused on helping young people learn the fundamentals of our great game, as well as the fundamentals of great leadership. That’s the beauty of baseball — when you teach it the right way with the right conviction, you can help young people succeed on and off the field. I’ve seen it here in the U.S., I’ve seen it during my time in Brazil, and I’ve witnessed it during my trips to East Asia. Now, I’m very excited to help bring that level of instruction and guidance to India, Pakistan, and the UAE.”
According to the release, while baseball’s fan base has an average age of 57 years old, cricket fans are among the world’s youngest sports fans, with an average age of 34. The UIBL has plans to “innovate and evolve the game to help capture and engage this younger, more diverse demographic.”
Per the release, the UIBL will “introduce new rule changes, create original gameplay concepts, and bring to life a more immersive viewing experience for fans at the stadium and home.” The UIBL will feature a multi-country format which will include players from across the world.
The UIBL has already started activating its international scouting and South Asia-focused development program, with a vision to partner with exceptional local organizations to build UIBL Baseball Academies across the region.
The February 2023 inaugural showcase will include four franchises representing different parts of the world. Franchises, managers, coaches and rosters will be announced at a later date. All showcase games will be played in Dubai.