From left: Kanwal Sra, Mariano Rivera and Kash Shaikh pose for a picture during an event.
The United International Baseball League (UIBL) announced recently 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 Fame baseball legends, Mariano Rivera and Barry Larkin — two of the sport’s most iconic and decorated stars, with a combined six World Series Championships and 25 All-Star Game selections – to help build, develop and grow the league.
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 GCC, 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.
“I’m so grateful to be a part of the UIBL team’s mission to inspire two billion new fans to fall in love with baseball,” said Rivera, professional baseball’s career leader in saves and games finished, and the only player ever unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame.
“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.”
American baseball is a $13 billion business with nearly 100 million fans across the US and Canada and a rabid following throughout Latin America. However, the game has yet to connect with South Asian and Middle Eastern sports fans, who collectively represent the largest cricket fan base in the world.
In South Asia alone, more than 167 million people watched the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 World Cup last year – 70 million more than the Super Bowl and over 150 million more than the World Series.
The UIBL has plans to innovate and evolve the game to help capture and engage this younger, more diverse demographic.
“We want to honor the game, and we want to change it,” said Kanwal S. Sra, Founder, Chairman, and CEO, of the UIBL. “We’re excited to help share the beauty and heritage of the game with a part of the world that has yet to fully embrace it.”
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.
In addition to innovations in gameplay and entertainment, the UIBL will pioneer a multi-country league format that will include players from across the world and enable international competition.
“We truly believe that player development has to start at the grassroots level,” said Larkin, winner of nine Silver Slugger awards, three Gold Gloves, and one of only 42 players in history to win a World Series, an MVP award, and be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
As part of its launch, the UIBL also introduced its brand logo and design, which artistically captures the most exciting moment in baseball – the home run. Each element of the brand is designed to both help educate the region on the game as well as inspire the imagination of younger fans.
“Not many moments in sports measure up to the energy and excitement of a home run,” said Kash Shaikh, President and Chief Marketing Officer of the UIBL.
The first series of games will take place on March 21-25 at the Dubai Little League Park next to Al Quoz Pond Park. The teams will meet again in the fall of 2021 in Tel Aviv.
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