SYDNEY, 13 June - Major League Baseball, majority backer of the Australian Baseball League, will open their 2014 Championship Season at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground when the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers play MLB’s Opening Series in New South Wales on 22 and 23 March 2014. New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell announced the unprecedented event at a press conference in Sydney Thursday.
The 2014 Opening Series will be MLB’s first played in an emerging baseball market after similar season-opening events in North America and Japan dating back to 1999. The 2014 trip will also mark the 100th anniversary of exhibition games staged by the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants at the same hallowed venue where the 2014 Opening Series will be played. The White Sox triumphed over the Giants in a 5-4 duel before 10,000 fans on 3 January 1914. Prior to that, Major Leaguers had played at the SCG in the late 19th century when Spalding’s World Tourists played a series of exhibition matches, including a 15 December 1888 game before 5,500 spectators.
“We are thrilled that Major League Baseball has selected Australia to be the showcase site for the beginning of the 2014 season,” Australian Baseball League CEO Peter Wermuth said. “This historic announcement marks yet another milestone in the success of baseball in Australia. The ABL, our member clubs, and our fans could not be more excited to host such a monumental event.”
Australian Baseball League members will have access to a members-first pre-sale for tickets to the 2014 MLB Opening Series. Fans may simply purchase a 2013/14 season membership with any ABL club to join this special pre-sale offer for first choice of 2014 Opening Series tickets before they go on sale to the rest of the world. For those not ready to purchase a full membership yet, placing a $25 deposit on membership reservations on +61 (02) 8226 0225 will also garner access to the pre-sale.
The Dodgers’ and Diamondbacks’ rosters each currently boast players with Australian and ABL connections. Dodgers reliever Peter Moylan was born in Western Australia and resides in Victoria. Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius played in the ABL’s inaugural 2010/11 season as a member of the Canberra Cavalry where he captured the league’s first Golden Glove award for outstanding defence.
The first Australian player to make the ranks of the Major Leagues was infielder Joe Quinn in 1884, and 30 other Aussies have followed in his footsteps since, including current Major Leaguers Grant Balfour of the Oakland Athletics, Travis Blackley of the Houston Astros, and Moylan of the Dodgers.
Following Quinn with the most career Major League games among Australian-born players are former Milwaukee Brewers catcher David Nilsson, a 1999 National League All-Star and former Brisbane Bandits manager; longtime former infielder Craig Shipley, who in 1986 became the first Australian player to play in the Majors since Quinn and currently serves as an assistant to D-backs general manager Kevin Towers; former lefty reliever Graeme Lloyd, a two-time World Series Champion with the New York Yankees and current pitching coach for the Perth Heat; 10-year reliever Balfour, who is currently the closer for the Athletics; and current Dodgers reliever Moylan, who was called up to the Club on May 31 after seven years with the Atlanta Braves. Seven of the 31 all-time Australian players were born in Sydney.
Like Balfour, Perth’s Liam Hendriks was also on the Opening Day roster of an MLB club in 2013, pitching for the Minnesota Twins. Several other former ABL import players have seen Major League action this season, as well, including Brandon Barnes of the Astros (Sydney Blue Sox, 2011/12), Donald Lutz of the Cincinnati Reds (Canberra Cavalry, 2010/11), Arizona’s Gregorius (Canberra Cavalry, 2010/11), and Brandon Bantz (Adelaide Bite, 2010/11) and Brandon Maurer of the Seattle Mariners (Adelaide Bite, 2010/11).
The 2014 Opening Series begins with an evening game on Saturday, 22 March to be followed by an afternoon game on Sunday, 23 March. The Diamondbacks will be considered the home side in each match.
The Sydney Cricket Ground, with an estimated capacity of 43,000, will be fully renovated to a baseball configuration and MLB standards to accommodate the series.
Major League Baseball has supported the new Australian Baseball League, along with the Australian Baseball Federation and the Australian Sports Commissioner, since 2010. The six-team league features homegrown talent, including professionals who compete in North America and Asia, and many players who hail from outside Australia. The league’s upcoming fourth season will run from November through February.