DUBAI: Baseball United, the first-ever professional baseball league focused on the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, has announced that Mumbai will be home to its first-ever franchise.
The franchise will be the first professional baseball team in the history of both India and the broader Gulf Cooperation Council and South Asian region.
The team’s name will be the Mumbai Cobras, named after a creature revered for its strength, agility, and resolve, and admired within Hindu teachings and culture. The Indian Cobra is a protected species within the nation of 1.4 billion people.
“This is a historic moment,” said Kash Shaikh, president, CEO and co-owner of Baseball United. “For the first time in history, this cricket-loving region will now have a professional baseball franchise. And Mumbai is the ideal city to carry that distinction. It’s not only one of the largest and most dynamic cities in the world, but it’s also the commercial and entertainment capital of India.
“We look forward to connecting with fans across this beautiful city and working together to build India’s next great sport. It’s our honor to welcome the Mumbai Cobras to Baseball United.”
The Mumbai Cobras, along with three other new professional baseball franchises, will compete in Baseball United’s Dubai Showcase in November.
All franchises, including the Cobras, will be fully owned by the league until after the inaugural tournament, at which time Baseball United will begin taking bids for each one. Mumbai is projected to be one of the most valuable franchises in the league — the Mumbai Indians franchise is the most valuable team in cricket’s Indian Premier League, currently worth $1.3 billion.
Baseball United will name the Cobras’ manager next week. The three other franchises will be named over the next two months. Following the announcements of all four franchises, Baseball United will conduct its first-ever draft, selecting showcase players from its official player pool.
“I’m so excited that Mumbai is our first franchise,” said Major League Baseball hall-of-famer and Baseball United co-owner, Barry Larkin. “I’ve had the privilege of visiting India to teach the game, and I’ve seen first-hand the passion, talent, and potential within the people of this city. Our team and I can’t wait to get started building with the community and connecting with our fans.”
According to Baseball United’s research, there are over 50 million avid baseball fans in India, most of whom live in and around the larger cities. This franchise announcement comes on the heels of Baseball United’s new partnership with the Amateur Baseball Federation of India, India’s World Baseball Softball Confederation-affiliated baseball organization. The agreement looks to help drive player development, national team training, fan experience, community outreach, and government relations across India.
In addition to Shaikh and Larkin, Baseball United’s ownership group includes Major League Baseball legends Mariano Rivera, Adrian Beltre, Felix Hernandez, and Elvis Andrus.