Baseball will continue its quest to extend its outreach and become a global game as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks prepare to head to Australia.
The historic two-game series, which has been pencilled in for the 22nd and 23rd of March next year, will be held at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Commissioner Bug Selig, who has long been a driving force behind making baseball a worldwide sport, told of how the series is the latest example of cooperation between baseball and its union that has led to the longest period of labour peace among the major professional sports in the United States.
"Major League Baseball is thrilled that the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers will open our 2014 regular season in Sydney, Australia," he said to MLB.com.
"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. We look forward to writing an exciting new chapter in international baseball history at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground next March."
Executives from the participating team also applauded the initiative, with Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten commenting: "The Dodgers are absolutely ecstatic to be opening the 2014 championship season in Sydney, one of the greatest cities in the world.
"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."
D-backs president and CEO Derrick Hall seconded that perspective: "We are honored that Major League Baseball selected our franchise to participate in the first-ever series in Australia," he said. "The Diamondbacks take great pride in promoting our brand, as well as the greatest sport, globally. Being at the forefront of spreading international goodwill on this prominent stage is a feat that we enthusiastically embrace and accept."
MLB has a history of kicking-off its season with International Series' in recent years, with the Rockies and Padres starting the tradition in Mexico back in 1999. Japan and Puerto Rico have also played host to such fixtures.
The Dodgers and D-backs will leave Spring Training after playing Cactus League games on March 16 and arrive in Sydney on the morning of March 18. The first game of the 2014 season will be played on the evening of March 22 followed by another game the next afternoon. Arizona will be considered the home team for both games. The facility will be fully renovated to a baseball configuration and will meet Major League standards.
Baseball has a long association with Australia and there have been 31 major leaguers from the country since Joe Quinn in 1884.
Current Dodgers reliever Peter Moylan, who is the latest in that line of Aussie imports, is excited about the prospect of the MLB going to his native land: "It will be huge for Australia," he said.
"When I started over here in '06, the thought of two teams from the Major Leagues playing in my home country was way far out there and, eight years later, here we are. I think it's really going to work.
"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 synchronized swimming and people would show up."
Major League Baseball has supported the new Australian Baseball League along with the Australian Baseball Federation since 2010. The League reflects the continuation of a long-term partnership between MLB and the ABF to significantly grow the sport in Australia. Wednesday's announcement is another giant step in that direction.
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