Baseball in the Land Down Under

As a regular visitor to Major League ballparks over the past three decades plus, the possibility of visiting Australia and taking in the regular season Major League opening game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground was too enticing to pass up.  As a result I traveled with my wife and four friends to the “Land Down Under” with the visit to Sydney being just one stop on our two week tour of Australia.

Per the Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust, the use of the site of the Sydney Cricket Ground as a sporting venue dates back to the mid-1800s.   It was officially named the “Sydney Cricket Ground” in 1894.  The present “Members Pavilion” (front) was built in 1886 and the adjacent “Ladies Stand” (rear) was built in 1896 making the Ground the oldest stadium to host Major League baseball.  The Members’ and Ladies’ stands are the only long-standing portions of the stadium remaining.  The other sections of the stadium have all been built since 1980.

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Our group arrived at the SCG, as it is known, approximately two hours before scheduled 7:15 p.m. game time and the crowd was already starting to gather.

As more than one of the locals mentioned, baseball is not a popular sport in Australia despite the fact that many Australians are avid sports fans.  The most popular professional sports in Australia are cricket, rugby and Australian Rules football although there is a six team professional baseball league in Australia, the Australian Baseball League.

We took in the color of the event and visited with some of the locals while waiting for the gates to open.  Once they were open, we proceeded to enter through the members’ entrance (see photo below).

Although baseball is not at the top of the list of favorites for the sports fans in Australia one couldn’t tell by the wide variety of baseball gear being worn by the fans and the lines that formed to purchase more.  Just about every Major League team was represented in addition to the large number wearing Diamondbacks gear and a much larger number wearing Dodgers gear.

In addition to the merchandise, many fans were eager to purchase the “authentic” American baseball food that was for sale at the concession stands.

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The selections included the “Los Angeles” and “Arizona” dogs for $15.50 AUD (approximately $14.00 USD), pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, several varieties of nachos and the $40 “All American Superdog,” a full 24 inches of beef, cheese, onions, tomato and whatever else they were putting on them.  Too rich for my blood, in more ways than one.

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The field at SCG required significant modification to convert for use as a baseball field.  Dirt for the pitchers’ mound was imported from the United States.  The field was configured with eight foot outfield walls with the foul poles located 328 feet from home plate.  The center field fence was situated 400 feet from home.

Temporary barriers had been erected in front of the stands on the first and third base sides in order to reduce the amount of foul territory which remained considerable.

Officially the game was delayed for 14 minutes by rain not considering the cancellation of pre-game festivities which were held prior to game two of the series which was played the next day.   The photos below was taken during batting practice and during the brief rain delay, respectively.

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The photo below shows Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks throwing the first pitch of the 2014 season to the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig.

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The Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw pitched 6.2 innings of one-run ball to pick up the win in Los Angeles’ 3-1 victory before an announced crowd of 38,266.  Scott Van Slyke hit a two run home run for the winners.  Miley took the loss for the Diamondbacks.

It seemed that a good time was had by all even by those for whom baseball was not their national pasttime.

 

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