Sports Diplomacy Hits a Home Run!

3 minutes read time
Fireworks are displayed before the MLB Home Run Derby, at Nationals Park, Monday, July 16, 2018 in Washington. The 89th MLB baseball All-Star Game will be played Tuesday.
Fireworks are displayed before the MLB Home Run Derby, at Nationals Park, Monday, July 16, 2018 in Washington. The 89th MLB baseball All-Star Game will be played on July 17.

Sports Diplomacy Hits a Home Run!

As sports fans, my colleagues and I here in the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs are excited that Washington, D.C. is hosting the Major League Baseball All-Star Game on July 17.  Also known as the "Midsummer Classic," this game brings together the best players in Major League Baseball in a competition between teams representing the American League (AL) and the National League (NL).  For years now we have seen the value of connecting these amazing athletes to the world through our “Diamond Diplomacy” exchange programs, named after the shape of the infield in baseball.  Leadership, teamwork, and communication skills are all part of baseball. And these are the same skills that help young people succeed in all areas of their lives. 

One of our signature sports diplomacy initiatives is the Sports Envoy program. Sports Envoys are athletes and coaches who travel overseas to lead programs that were developed by U.S. embassies and consulates. These American coaches and athletes hold sports clinics for young people and their coaches, participate in community outreach activities, and engage youth in a dialogue on the importance of leadership and respect for diversity. Two former All-Stars and Hall of Fame baseball players, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Ken Griffey, Jr., serve as U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoys for our sports diplomacy programs.  Earlier this year, Ripken traveled to the Czech Republic, where he conducted clinics, meet with coaches and local officials, and held public discussions on the game of baseball as part of U.S. Embassy Prague’s year-long Centennial Celebration of U.S.-Czech relations.

And this year, we are especially cheering for first time all-star Jed Lowrie, who is also a Sports Envoy. After 11 years in the Major Leagues where he played every position between 1st and 3rd base, Lowrie is a model example of persistence and following your dream. In 2015 as a shortstop for the Houston Astros, Lowrie travelled to the Colombian cities of Bogota, Cartagena, and Barranquilla to share that message. He also spoke about the relevance of engaging at-risk youth in sports programs as a way to encourage leadership development and teamwork skills. This year, he traveled again, this time to Nicaragua, where he held sessions with both boys and girls on gender equality and gender-based violence. Tonight, he shows that hard work and determination make us better people, and make the world a better place. And we are proud that he could take that message abroad for us.

If you are interested in learning more, follow @sportsdiplomacy  and @ECAatState for more information. 

About the Author: Nathan Arnold serves in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs  at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.