Players from across the state to take part in the first-ever “Cricket Day” at Camden Yards
BALTIMORE, MD — Though it’s popularity on the international stage is much larger than in the United States, the game of cricket has found a home here in Maryland. Currently, there are more than 500 children playing organized organized cricket in Maryland – one of the largest percentages in the United States. That’s according to Jamie Harrison, Chairman of the Maryland Youth Cricket Association (MYCA).
“We are the nation’s leader in youth cricket participation, and it’s not even a contest,” said Harrison, who has been working to build the sport in the state since the late 2000s. When he began working to organize the MYCA in 2010, Harrison says there were no organized youth cricket leagues in Maryland. At that time, there were established men’s leagues in the D.C. -Metro area but no real efforts in place to grow the game through local communities.
Earlier this month, the MYCA announced a new partnership with the Baltimore Orioles, as the franchise is set to host its first-ever “Cricket Day” on Sunday, August 11th against the Houston Astros. “Cricket has a long and storied history in Maryland, and it’s great to see the Orioles getting behind its resurgence,” said Harrison. He believes that baseball fans can easily find cricket appealing, as many players have made the transition between the two sports, “The games share a common ancestry with many similar elements. It’s only natural that baseball fans would be cricket fans and vice-versa.”
Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game will be 14-year-old Lisa Ramjit of Bowie. The Prince George’s county resident shined this year for Team USA. Ramjit started by taking the first-ever International T20 wicket in USA Women’s cricket history on just her second ball, going on to become the top T20 International wicket-taker in USA Women’s Cricket history.
Ramjit started playing cricket at the age of seven for the 11U ball team of the Boys and Girls Club of Bowie. The areas of the state seeing the largest growth and popularity have been in the metropolitan areas, specifically Montgomery, Howard and parts of Prince George’s Counties, according to Harrison.
“Since 2010, I’ve personally placed free cricket sets in hundreds of schools in Maryland and taught the game to thousands of students,” said Harrison, who admits that it’s been more than an individual effort, “In 2011, I met Sham Chotoo from the Boys and Girls Club of Bowie. I brought him into MYCA and his activity in schools has even surpassed me.”
A Chance Encounter at an Unlikely Place
As a teacher at Cardinal Gibbons High School in Baltimore, Harrison went on a field trip with students to a Civil War site in Virginia in 2008. That is where he was first introduced to the game. Harrison recalls the class watching a cannon-firing demonstration when “a man in period clothing called out to our group, asking if we would like to play cricket.” Harrison said the sport was being demonstrated as “an artifact of America’s past” and that when his students returned to school the following week, they couldn’t stop talking about it.
“It was during this time that I saw how quickly American children would take to cricket if they were just given a chance. I began to think about the broader implications of this,” Harrison remembered. Over the next year, Harrison said that he and his students started learning the game together and that they quickly went from using plastic sets to playing tennis ball cricket. Before they knew it, Harrison said that he and his students were playing the game with the same equipment and rules as the international game.
Just as the club began to take off, the Archdiocese of Baltimore announced the closure of Cardinal Gibbons in 2010. “I couldn’t let the sport go. I decided to found the MYCA with the purpose of placing free cricket sets in Maryland schools and give instructions to PE teachers,” Harrison said.
It was around this time that Harrison started hearing from people around the country who shared a similar passion for the game that he did. He partnered with cricket enthusiasts from around the U.S. to help form the United States Youth Cricket Association (USYCA). The USYCA worked to raise money, donating more than 2,000 cricket sets and training to schools throughout the United States. Harrison left the USYCA in 2016 to place his sole focus on growing the sport in the state of Maryland.
The Old “Boundary” State
Since turning his attention to Maryland, Harrison says the MYCA has grown into the nation’s only statewide junior competition organization. He credits Chotoo for his work in Prince George’s County, which has the only elementary and middle school competition teams in the state. Maryland is also the only representative state team in the country, which competes in regional and national tournaments at the U12, U14 and U16 age groups.
In less than a decade, cricket is beginning to gain traction beyond the metro areas with clubs in Carroll County, the Lutherville-Timonium area of Baltimore County and in the Anne Arundel County communities of Linthicum and Ferndale, where Harrison coaches. Because of the growth in the state, Maryland’s Sports Commission awarded the MYCA with a grant for $2,500 in 2018.
“When most people think cricket, they don’t necessarily think about the United States, let alone Maryland. Our hope is that the perception changes,” said Terry Hasseltine, Executive Director of Maryland’s Sports Commission. “Through the partnership between the MYCA and Maryland Sports, our goal is to promote the state of Maryland as a destination for future championships and tournaments for the game of cricket, especially as its popularity grows in the U.S. More importantly though, we want to make sure that the children in this state have the ability to build upon their skills and give them the opportunity to pursue their passion.”
For the Orioles first “Cricket Day”, $5 of every “Cricket Ticket” sold will go to benefit youth cricket in Maryland. Children who attend the game in their cricket uniforms will also receive a special “6”/ “Home Run” sign to waive in the stands.
Harrison is hoping the partnership with the Orioles will further promote and enhance the popularity of the game. “I can easily imagine a child who’s never been exposed to cricket seeing children at the game, wearing these interesting uniforms, having fun with their “6” signs and the kids who don’t play cricket asking their parents, ‘What’s that about? It might spark some curiosity, maybe among the parents, too. I hope so, anyway.”
For more information about the Maryland Youth Cricket Association, visit:
For ticket information about the Baltimore Orioles “Cricket Day”, visit:
About Maryland Sports:
The mission of Maryland’s Sports Commission is to enhance Maryland’s economy, image and quality of life through the attraction, promotion, retention and development of regional, national and international sporting events.