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Major League Baseball storms into Sydney

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Ominous weather delayed the opening pitch by 45 minutes on Saturday night

The Major League Baseball Opening Series in Sydney has been hailed a success, with over 70,000 fans flocking to the two games between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend.

The Saturday game – the first Major League Baseball game for the 2014 season –drew a crowd of 38,266 to the converted Sydney Cricket Ground, with a further 38,079 fans packing into the stadium on the Sunday.

General Manager of the Australian Baseball League’s Canberra Cavalry, Thom Carter, said that playing these games here was just the most recent step in how Major League Baseball is committed to the growth of the game in Australia.

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Dodgers fans watch LA’s pitchers go through their pre-game routine

The Dodgers may have taken bragging rights over their bitter rivals on the field – winning 3-1 on Saturday and 7-5 on Sunday – but the winners from this event really were the fans, as the results seemed to take a backseat to the occasion.

Unsurprising, considering this was the first time Australia had hosted top flight Baseball since the Chicago White Sox beat the then New York Giants 5-4 in an exhibition game at the same venue on January 3, 1914.

“Baseball is on the front page of major newspapers and all over the TV news; we are very excited about what this means for the game in Australia,” said Mr Carter.

“Bringing two of the best baseball teams in the world to Australia is very exciting for our sport”

The Dodgers seemed the better supported team – Dodgers caps were the first merchandise item to sell out – which was somewhat unsurprising given the Dodgers are one of Baseball’s glamour teams.

This showed that earlier comments by LA pitcher Zack Greinke – who incidentally was left at home in the States due to injury – that the team had “zero enthusiasm” in making the trip, had not dulled support for the LA team.

Despite these comments, both teams fielded near full strength line ups, including one of the biggest names in Baseball, LA starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw – recipient of a seven year, $215 million dollar contract extension in the off season, who pitched a near flawless opening game.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]The crowd figures of 38,266 on the Saturday and 38,079 on the Sunday compare favourably with Diamondbacks home games – their average crowd was 26,034 in 2013.
However, the Baseball crowds were smaller than those at the Sydney Ashes Test in January, which averaged attendance of 43,904 across three days of play.[/box]

And an event like this would not have been complete without a healthy dose of Americana – if the cost of your tickets hadn’t sent you broke ($110 to sit in the outfield), you could gorge on any number of American delicacies and souvenirs.

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What is this? An LA Dodgers helmet, full to the brim with US-style nachos

The 24 inch ‘Super Dog’ hotdogs were very popular despite setting you back $45, with a Baseball helmet filled with nachos going for a more reasonable $18. Fans just had to be prepared to wait in a 45 minute queue with no view of the game for these delectable treats. And those who wanted to whet their whistle could wash it all down with a cup of genuine Miller draught beer – although they had to be quick, with unconfirmed rumours of one bar running out of Miller 20 minutes into the Saturday game.

Welcome to Major League Baseball.

Text and Images by Alex Malyon.

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