The 2014 Major League Baseball season will open in Australia with a two-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
The teams will play at the Sydney Cricket Ground on March 22 and 23 in the first MLB regular-season games to be played in Australia, Barry O’Farrell, premier of New South Wales state, said today at a televised news conference in Sydney.
MLB previously has held season openers overseas to spread its brand internationally. The Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres began the 1999 season in Mexico, while four season openers have been staged in Japan, most recently last year when the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners met in Tokyo. Puerto Rico hosted the 2001 season opener.
“The globalization 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,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “We look forward to writing an exciting new chapter in international baseball history at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground next March.”
The series will take place 100 years after the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants played an exhibition game at the SCG. It will take about 10 days to transform the ground, which has hosted elite international cricket matches since 1882, into an MLB-standard field with the construction of a dirt infield area, pitcher’s mound, dugouts and bullpens.
“We are well aware of the playing field requirements laid down by MLB,” Jamie Barkley, chief executive officer of the SCG Trust that operates the venue, said in a statement. “We look forward to showcasing the SCG.”
The New South Wales state government’s tourism and events authority estimates the series will bring 10,000 visitors to Sydney and generate more than A$13 million ($12.2 million) in economic investment, O’Farrell said. ESPN will broadcast the games to an estimated global television audience of 168 million households.