Former MLB names included in an initial crop of players.
Dubai-based Baseball United held their inaugural player draft on Oct. 24. Of the first 32 selections, 29 of the total selections were former Major League Baseball players, according to the league. That’s a 45 per cent ratio.
The league currently consists of four teams: the Mumbai Cobras, Karachi Monarchs, Dubai Wolves, and Abu Dhabi Falcons. It is the first-ever professional baseball league in the Middle East. “Our mission is to inspire one billion new fans to fall in love with baseball,” the Baseball United website reads.
The league was founded in July 2022 with hall-of-famers Barry Larkin and Mariano Rivera forming the initial ownership group. Former shortstop Elvis Andrus joined ownership in April 2023 and former first baseman Ryan Howard joined the group in Sept. 2023. Former players Adrian Beltre and Felix Hernandez soon followed suit.
The first overall selection by the Mumbai Cobras was pitcher Karan Patel, who was drafted in the seventh round—200th overall—of the 2019 MLB draft by the Chicago White Sox. He was the first player of Indian descent drafted into the MLB. His father is from Mumbai.
Notable former MLB players such as Didi Gregorius, Pablo Sandoval, Robinson Canó, Andrelton Simmons and Bartolo Colón were also drafted into the league. There were players from 25 different countries selected in the draft, including three players from Canada.
“Putting players on teams makes everything much more real for everyone involved,” Chairman and CEO of Baseball United Kash Shaikh said about the draft. “We have All-Stars, former top draft picks and a mix of veterans and younger guys to help carry the game across the world. I’m very happy for all our players.”
The league is quickly growing in popularity. Its official Instagram account already has over 59,000 followers and that number is only growing. The league will debut with its All-Star Showcase on Nov. 24 and 25. As of now, it is unclear if the showcase will be televised or streamed, but it will be a two-game series between two all-star teams at Dubai International Stadium.