SYDNEY: Australia scored a major coup Thursday when it was announced that the 2014 US Major League Baseball season will open in Sydney with the six-time World Series winners LA Dodgers facing the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Sydney Cricket Ground will host two games between the rivals on March 22 and 23, marking the first time a competitive US baseball fixture will be held in Australia and only the sixth time one has been staged outside the United States.
Over $US310 million of world baseball superstars will line-up when the two Western Division rivals go head-to-head on the famous ground as the game seeks to boost its popularity outside the United States.
“The globalisation of our game continues to be paramount to Major League Baseball, and Australia is an essential part of our long-term efforts to grow the sport,” said MLB Commissioner Bud Selig.
“We look forward to writing an exciting new chapter in international baseball history at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground next March.”
SCG Trust chief executive Jamie Barkley said it was “history in the making for the MLB and for sport in Australia”.
“I congratulate the MLB and the New South Wales government in having the foresight and confidence to play two showcase games at Australia’s most internationally recognised venue, the SCG,” he said.
The SCG will be transformed for the games, with the construction of an infield clay area, pitcher’s mound, dugouts and the completion of a new stand.
Executives from the teams applauded the initiative.
“The Dodgers are absolutely ecstatic to be opening the 2014 championship season in Sydney, one of the greatest cities in the world,” Dodgers president Stan Kasten said on the MLB website.
“Our organization is committed to growing the game of baseball internationally, and I’m eager to kick off our season in one of the most exciting and rapidly developing baseball markets on earth.”
Diamondbacks chief Derrick Hall said his team was “honoured” to be selected for the games.
“Diamondbacks take great pride in promoting our brand, as well as the greatest sport, globally,” he said.
“Being at the forefront of spreading international goodwill on this prominent stage is a feat that we enthusiastically embrace and accept.”
MLB games have only been played outside the United States a handful of times before, in Mexico, Japan, and Puerto Rico.
Australia has a long association with baseball with 31 Australians becoming major leaguers, including Dodgers reliever Peter Moylan, who said he was excited to be heading home and tipped big crowds.
“It will be huge for Australia,” he said.
“Two games, people will come from all over the country to be a part of it. It’s history. Sports is a huge part of our culture. They could bring over synchronised swimming and people would show up.”