When Prince Harry throws out the first pitch Saturday in a historic game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in London, a key member of the NTT IndyCar Series paddock will be there, behind the scenes, taking it all in.
George Steinbrenner IV, co-owner of Harding Steinbrenner Racing, traveled with his family to London to witness the first Major League Baseball games to be played in Europe. He will use lessons learned from racing in dealing with the Yankees, which is to say he won’t be in the way.
“I don’t really feel like I can approach or in my mind bother them before or after a game, especially being around racing where pre- and post-race is a very involved time for the driver in terms of prepping or recovering,” Steinbrenner said. “Being around racing, I brought that mentality over to the Yankees’ side. I let them do their thing, and I do mine.”
Steinbrenner is the grandson of George Steinbrenner III, who owned the Yankees from 1973 until his death in 2010. Steinbrenner IV’s father, Hank Steinbrenner, is the team’s part owner and co-chairman. Hal Steinbrenner, Hank’s brother and George IV’s uncle, is the team’s principal owner and managing general partner.
In March, Steinbrenner IV and Colton Herta reached youthful milestones at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, when Herta = a few weeks shy of his 19th birthday - became the youngest race winner in Indy car history as Steinbrenner, who recently turned 23, became the youngest team owner to win a race. They recently won their first pole together (at Road America).
The similarities between racing and baseball are evident how athletes prepare and recover from events, Steinbrenner said.
“There are similarities between the two sports, especially in baseball with 162 games in a year,” he said. “The before and after time to really either relax or get focused is really important for the longevity of the season. To be able to do that and do it well is extremely important.”
The series -- an attempt by MLB to expand its reach overseas, specifically in Europe -- is a massive and expensive undertaking. Forbes estimates the two-game series at London Stadium could cost as much as $10 million, mostly to convert the stadium used for the 2012 Olympics to from a soccer pitch to a baseball diamond.
The 60,000-seat venue sold out in 30 minutes. Saturday’s game begins at 1 p.m. ET and will be televised in the U.S. on FOX. Sunday’s game begins at 10 a.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
The expansion of American professional sports to London isn’t new; the National Football League has been playing games there since 2007. But it is a fresh step for MLB, which has played regular-season and exhibition games in Mexico, Japan and Australia since 1996.
“The big-picture aspect, which is largely unknown, is how many die-hard fans Major League Baseball gets out of the games,” wrote Forbes’ Maury Brown. “For (MLB commissioner Rob) Manfred, MLBPA executive director Tony) Clark, the league and the players, the lengthy investment to get a foothold in Europe is about growing baseball globally. There are clearly large upfront costs involved in such endeavors, but Manfred has said repeatedly that he sees MLB as a growth industry with a chance to achieve greater global prominence.”
The history and the possibilities for the future intrigue Steinbrenner.
“It’s the first Major League Baseball game to be played in Europe,” he said. “It is exciting. I like that they’re regular-season games. Usually in the past we’d play exhibition games before the season started in Japan or other countries. It’s cool that they are games with some stakes to them, too. They put on a better show for the fans.”