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Bartolo Colon, Robinson Cano among several former MLBers to play in Dubai baseball league’s inaugural contest

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Baseball United, the first professional baseball league in west Asia, is underway in Dubai.

CEO Kash Shaikh got a bunch of current and future Hall of Famers on board as part owners, including Mariano Rivera, Barry Larkin and Adrian Beltre. And there are some former All-Stars in the lineups.

The league has rules that might make baseball purists’ heads spin. If a home run is hit with a “money ball,” double the runs are recorded.

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Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon of the United East All-Stars pitches against the United West All-Stars during the Baseball United Showcase at Dubai International Stadium Nov. 24, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images for Baseball United)

But the league has plenty of familiar stars. 

Perhaps the biggest name in the league is Bartolo Colon, who, at the ripe age of 50, continues to be one of the most legendary figures in the sport.

Colon, the 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner, pitched in the All-Star Showcase, the league’s first game, at Dubai International Stadium Friday.

He may be 50, but he was still touching low 80s with his fastball, even getting eight-time All-Star Robinson Cano to ground out.

Colon retired the side in order — Cano, Alejandro de Aza and Didi Gregorius — in his first inning of work.

Robinson Cano

Robinson Cano of the United West All-Stars is introduced prior to the Baseball United Showcase at Dubai International Stadium Nov. 24, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Adam Nurkiewicz/Getty Images for Baseball United)

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The league also features former big leaguers Pablo Sandoval, Andrelton Simmons and de Aza. Miguel Tejada is a manager.

“We can change the life of many youngsters,” Rivera, a New York Yankees legend and the greatest closer ever, told Fox News last year when he joined the league. 

“The game of baseball, to me, is something precious, something unique, something that not many people can do at that level. But if we start teaching the right way in these countries, the game of baseball that we know how to play, and they have passion for it, I think we can accomplish a lot,”

Mariano Rivera celebrates

Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees waves to the crowd from the mound after breaking the career save record in a game against the Minnesota Twins Sept. 19, 2011, at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of Manhattan. (Rob Tringali/MLB via Getty Images)

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“I think, sporadically, there is baseball being played in these different countries. The question is what is the information, who’s teaching them, what information are they getting?” Larkin, a Cincinnati Reds great, added. “So, obviously, what Mariano and I bring is very, very high-level curriculum that’s able to be dumbed down for whatever effort level it is. That really is the biggest thing.”

The All-Star showcase continues Saturday night.


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