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SBD Global/February 27, 2014/Events and Attractions

MLB's Paul Archey Says Greinke's Comments Don't Represent Opinion Of League Or Clubs

MLB Int'l Business Operations Senior VP Paul Archey said there is excitement for the season opener in Sydney.
MLB Int'l Business Operations Senior VP Paul Archey said that the comments of L.A. Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke about next month's season-opening series in Australia do not represent the opinion of the league or the clubs. Greinke told ESPN last week that "there is absolutely zero excitement" for coming to Australia. He said, "There just isn't any excitement to it. I can't think of one reason to be excited for it." Archey told SBD Global that he disagrees with Greinke's comments, but he also said that playing internationally always comes with certain sacrifices. "It's out of the routine of what a player normally does, and not all players are going to like it," he said. The Dodgers will open the '14 regular season with a two-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground on March 22-23, and while Greinke's comments may have upset Australian officials, they have had no impact on ticket sales. "The games are nearly sold out now. There are very few seats remaining at the moment. We are expecting the games to be sold out," Archey said.

LOOKING DOWN UNDER: The season-opening series in Australia will be the league's first outside of North America and Japan, and a further testament to the sport's growing popularity on the continent. Archey called Australia a developing baseball market, and the numbers show he is right. In '90, Australia had one MLB player and maybe two or three professional ball players in general. To date, the country has produced a total of 31 MLB players and many more are currently competing for spots in the minor leagues. Archey said, "We’ve seen the sport just keep growing there, going up. We’ve been heavy in that market with game development programs for many years. It’s a place that we wanted to go play and give a boost to the game." The league has not only invested in grassroots in Australia but also in the professional level. The country's top professional league, the Australian Baseball League, was set up four years ago and is a 75%-owned subsidiary of MLB. Despite all of MLB's investments in the country, Archey acknowledged that Australia still represents a new and non-traditional market for the league.

SCG TRANSFORMATION: With less than a month to go before the first pitch is thrown at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the league has to transform the cricket ground into a baseball field. "It will be an enormous task. One that is a lot of fun to do, but it does take a lot of work," Archey said. It has been 100 years since the SCG hosted its last baseball game. In 1914, the Chicago White Sox defeated the New York Giants 5-4 in an exhibition game at SCG in front of 10,000 fans, according to The Australian. The transformation from an oval-shaped cricket ground to a diamond-shaped baseball field will start on Friday. "So we’ve got a lot of work to do in a short period of time. Everything from growing grass to erecting backstops and fencing, locker rooms and batting cages, I mean it really is turning this thing over," said Archey.

CLAY THE PROBLEM: In Sydney, Michael Chammas reported perhaps the biggest challenge "has been sourcing the clay that makes up the pitcher's mound and infield." Six months of experimentation went into "trying to mix a blend of clay and synthetic material that complies with MLB standards." The best efforts of three Australian specialists, however, "couldn't produce the right blend, forcing tour promoters Moore Sports to import clay" from the U.S. To "adhere to Australia's strict quarantine guidelines, the clay -- which was sourced from San Diego -- had to be extracted from five metres below the surface." It was an assignment that "finally came to an end" when the clay "cleared customs and quarantine to arrive at the SCG" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 2/26).
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