Mariano Rivera hopes his latest show will change the lives of two billion people.
The former Yankees believe that a new professional baseball league that serves India, Pakistan and the Middle East will revolutionize their sport and develop a new generation of players and fans.
Rivera is the co-chair of the new United International Baseball League (UIBL), which he says could provide young athletes with a similar path to the path he charted as an amateur pitcher in Panama who became the all-time major baseball team captain. .
“Coming from Panama, I don’t have much, but just getting a chance to play the game I love, is what prompted me to do the same for those in Pakistan, India and the Middle East, who don’t have much,” Rivera told the Daily News.
“We have to give them the opportunity to become the next star. Doing that, it’s amazing, because you don’t know what you’re going to face. … How many Mariano Riveras will you find there?”
UIBL was founded by investor Kanwal S. Secretly, a New York University graduate and Ernst & Young alum who saw an opportunity to introduce America’s pastime to the 2 billion residents of the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East through the first-ever professional baseball league there.
Rivera and secretly believe that baseball has a chance to thrive in countries where cricket is among the most popular sports.
It’s not the same game, but it’s similar,” Rivera said. They have to hit the ball. They have to catch the ball. They have to run and all that stuff. By actually doing that, cricket has helped us keep doing something different.
“You have the opportunity to teach baseball in different countries,” Rivera said. “Countries with the ability to bring Major League players into Major League Baseball.”
Pencil Case Express
The Daily News sports editors pick this week’s best Yankees stories from award-winning columnists and best writers. Delivered to your inbox every Wednesday.
UIBL announced on Monday that it will hold a show in Dubai next February featuring teams from India, Pakistan, the United States and Dubai. The league plans to expand for a full season with eight teams in 2024.
India has a population of about 1.3 billion people. He privately told The News that you have 900 million people who follow cricket. “The average age of people watching in India is 34. The average age of baseball fans in America is 57. We see a great opportunity to be able to develop the game and develop a lot of young people.”
Rivera made each of his 19 seasons in MLB with the Yankees, scoring 652 assists and winning five world championships. The team retired at number 42 in 2013, and in 2019 became the only player unanimously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
He is eager to inspire young players through UIBL in the same way that athletes from Panama have motivated him.
“There were players like Roberto Kelly, who was part of the New York Yankees, and many other Panamanians who had played before, who were in the same conditions as I was,” Rivera said. “Maybe a little worse. But at the same time, you have this opportunity, you get the opportunity, and you just benefit.”
Baseball Hall of Famer fellow Barry Larkin has also partnered with UIBL to help highlight the project. Rivera believes they have the right list of CEOs to make the league a success.
“That would be something special,” Rivera said.