The Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks touched down in Sydney on Tuesday morning to a typical Australian reception featuring little fanfare.
Some $350 million worth of on-field talent arrived in Sydney for the worst road trip in all of sports- a 7,000 mile (12,000km) flight Down Under to launch the MLB season for both teams in the form of a two-game series this weekend.
But unlike recent trips that have seen MLB franchises visit Japan and Central America for international games, neither side were met by legions of fans and instead encountered just a few autograph seekers and photographers.
Both teams ventured out to the Sydney Cricket Ground for a taste of their makeshift home on Tuesday, but found that the stadium’s curator wasn’t going to part with the city’s famous cricket pitch.
250 tonnes of San Diego clay was imported to Australia to form the infield and pitcher’s mound.
“We had about five soil technicians work for about 10 months trying to do the mix here because we didn’t want to bring anything in from overseas,” Sydney sports promoter Jason Moore told News Ltd of the experiment to try recreate MLB clay.
“Unfortunately our geology is different and we just couldn’t do it, so we had to bite the bullet last year and order … bags of clay.
“These are real games — you can’t muck around.
“Batting averages count, pitching averages count — this is what guys will win and lose careers on.
The transformed SCG removed the entire outfield but left the cricket pitch behind to sit between second base and center-field while outfielders are also being trained to get the baseball off the strip quickly should it land there.
But despite all the rules and restrictions being placed on the MLB opener in Australia, both sides don’t seem to mind thanks to the sell-out crowds expected to show up and support the first of America’s four major sports making the arduous trip across the world.
Both SCG games on Saturday and Sunday are expected to attract capacity crowds of 40,000 fans each day, which also marks the 100th anniversary since the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants played an exhibition match on the SCG turf on January 3, 1914.
The success of the event could lead to future visits from the NBA and NFL.
“There’s no question about it, we all look at each other and every time you do something out of the norm, you take special interest,” MLB senior vice-president of international business operations told the AP.
“I watch what they (NBA and NFL) do and I have no doubt they’ll be watching what we do here in Australia.”
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