- Hall of famers Barry Larkin and Mariano Rivera now lead one of only a few minority-owned professional sports leagues in the world
NEW YORK/DUBAI: The United International Baseball League, a professional competition created to serve the Middle East and South Asia, has announced its name change to Baseball United.
The rebranding comes with new ownership and funding, as the league builds partnerships with baseball federations in more than 50 countries worldwide.
With the change in ownership, the inaugural Baseball United Showcase featuring the league’s first four franchises will now take place in Dubai in the fall of 2023.
In addition to its professional league, the Baseball United ecosystem will encompass youth academies, clothing and merchandise, international content and media, and global nonprofit outreach. With its new structure, Baseball United becomes only the second minority-owned professional sports league in American history.
The new company’s ownership group includes baseball hall of famers Barry Larkin and Mariano Rivera, as well as award-winning executive and entrepreneur, Kash Shaikh, and former New York Police Department Commander of International Intelligence John Miedreich.
Shaikh will serve as Baseball United’s CEO and board chairman. He has spent the past two decades in leadership roles at Procter & Gamble, GoPro, and his own companies, including sports marketing firm BSB Sports and growth consultancy BSB Group International.
Shaikh’s sports industry experience includes work with teams, athletes and brands across some of the world’s largest professional sports leagues, including Major League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, UFC and the Olympics.
“Today is a big day for our team, and for baseball fans across the world,” said Shaikh. “Baseball United powerfully brings to life our mission to inspire 2 billion new fans to fall in love with the game of baseball, and broadens our platform for international development, partnership and growth. We’re grateful for the strong support we’ve received across the world, and we are looking forward to continuing to build the right way with the right people.”
Larkin and Rivera, two of baseball’s most decorated stars with a combined six World Series Championships and 25 All-Star Game selections, will also serve on Baseball United’s new board of directors.
Larkin, who played 19 years with the Cincinnati Reds, has spent the bulk of his post-playing career leading international baseball development in South America and Asia, including serving as the manager of the Brazilian national team from 2013 to 2017.
Rivera also spent 19 years with one franchise, pitching his entire career with the New York Yankees. The only player ever unanimously elected to the Hall of Fame, Rivera has also built baseball development programs and academies in his home country of Panama.
“It’s a blessing to be able to continue to grow the beautiful game of baseball,” said Rivera. “The new company structure, along with our new name of Baseball United, positions us for growth in countries that are often overlooked when it comes to baseball. And, even more importantly, we now have the right leadership in place to help us succeed. I’m excited to work alongside Kash, Barry and our entire Baseball United team to make that happen.”
The company also unveiled a new logo and brand that will be used in its worldwide operations.
“Our new league will not only bring more opportunity to hundreds of professional baseball players from around the world, but it will be a benchmark for diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Larkin. “Our grassroots academies and development programs will give access to young kids in underserved countries who haven’t had the opportunity to learn the game and absorb the benefits of team sports. That top-down and bottom-up approach is a critical part of our strategy, and I believe it will be a key driver of our success.”