Selig Says MLB Would Return To Australia After Opening Series; Europe Also In The Works
The D-Backs-Dodgers Opening Series in Australia "felt like a success" for MLB, "at least based on the size of the crowds for both games -- near sellouts -- and the atmosphere at Sydney Cricket Ground," according to Nick Piecoro of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. MLB is "hoping these sort of showcase events increase the sport's worldwide popularity." Commissioner Bud Selig said, "The growth (in the sport) in the next decade or so is going to be international. That's why trips like this are so important" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/23). In L.A., Dylan Hernandez noted Saturday's opener was played in front of 38,266 fans, who were "often loud but clearly more interested in foul balls than home runs." Dodgers C A.J. Ellis said, "It feels more festive. It had that exhibition-type feel" (L.A. TIMES, 3/23). Yesterday's finale was played in front of a crowd of 38,079 (MLB.com, 3/23). D-Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall said, "Other than the final scores, the series was a tremendous success. We increased our fan base and helped spread goodwill on behalf of Major League Baseball. If asked again in the future, we would be in favor of going" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/24). D-Backs manager Kirk Gibson said, "We certainly would like to come back if we're invited. ... This event was outstanding -- really cool. The crowds were great, the preparation of the city from the city of Sydney was outstanding. They treated us well." Dodgers manager Don Mattingly: "I think it was worth it, for sure. I wasn't part of any of the (meetings deciding) whether to come or not. I didn't really hear that much about it, honestly. But it surely hasn't ... it's been worth it" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/24).
INSIDE THE OUTBACK: The ARIZONA REPUBLIC's Piecoro wrote the atmosphere at SCG was "lively, the energy high and the baseball interesting, in large part because of the conditions and dimensions of this 166-year-old converted park" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/23). The AP's Dennis Passa noted the opening ceremonies that were "scratched Saturday because of thunderstorms and light rain were held before Sunday's game." Former MLBer Graeme Lloyd "threw the ceremonial first pitch to Dave Nilsson" (AP, 3/23). When the SCG announcer asked fans which team they were rooting for, the "roaring reception for the megastars worth $240M drowned out the polite claps for the small-town battlers from the Arizona desert" (AAP, 3/24). In Sydney, Michael Chammas notes it "appeared Sydney-siders were attracted to history and glamour" of the Dodgers. Their caps "sold the fastest, with plenty of blue" in the stands (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/24). MLB.com's Doug Miller noted jerseys from markets "big and small, and eras current and past, were seen on the backs of revelers" (MLB.com, 3/22). In Melbourne, Malcolm Knox wrote "most of the crowd" at the Opening Series was "American expats, enjoying a care package from home." But thousands of Australians also "came to soak up the event in good spirit" (Melbourne AGE, 3/24). Cricket HOFer Ian Chappell said, "People have been saying for a long time, ‘I wish we could get some Major League Baseball here.’ ... There was a good buzz here and they were certainly ready for the game.” MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger described the atmosphere as "World Cup meets Wimbledon" (“MLB Tonight,” MLB Network, 3/22).
LET'S PLAY TWO: Selig said, "I know there was a little bit of criticism from people in the media and so forth, but what they don’t understand is these are all building blocks. Asked if MLB would return to Australia, Selig said, "Yes, I am very confident we will be" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 3/23). The AGE's Knox wrote Australia is "being rewarded for its strong history of baseball participation -- there have been 30 participants in the top American competition since Craig Shipley made his debut for the Dodgers in 1986." The New South Wales government "offered an undisclosed incentive to MLB to stage a baseball festival that it forecast would generate more than [A] $12 million for the state's economy" (Melbourne AGE, 3/22). Dodgers announcer Vin Scully said, "The people in Australia I find to be extremely warm, extremely friendly and gracious, so it makes the trip absolutely perfect" (MLB.com, 3/22). The ARIZONA REPUBLIC's Piecoro notes MLB "sees Australia as an already-developing baseball country with room for growth," and Selig "believes the next boom in the game's popularity will happen beyond U.S. borders." Selig added, "I see awesome potential. If we do this right, you won't recognize how big and good this sport is in 15 years" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/24). SI.com’s Tom Verducci said, "To grow, baseball needs to grow their international market as well. And to do that, you can’t just take your product and export it via video games or piped in games to certain channels internationally. You really need to bring your product in front of people so they can see it in-person, touch it, feel it, (and) see it” (SI.com, 3/21).
GOING GLOBAL: In N.Y., Tyler Kepner noted MLB Senior VP/Int'l Operations Paul Archey described the baseball market in Australia as "developing." Archey said, "We’d love to play in Europe, and you’ll see that sometime in the near future. Korea and Taiwan have expressed interest, too, and certainly Latin America. We plan to continue to be aggressive internationally and hit new markets.” MLB has been the "majority owner of the Australian Baseball League since it started" in November '10. The league said that merchandise sales "have grown" by more than 400%, and more than 1,245 hours of live MLB games "were available in Australia last year," an 85% increase from '07 (N.Y. TIMES, 3/22). Selig said, "I want to open and play some regular-season games in Europe. The potential there is beginning to grow, which is very exciting. The nice part about this, we’re getting overtures, really good ones, from all over the world" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/23). But SNY’s Adam Schein said, “Did you know baseball actually started this weekend? Seriously, horrendous job by Bud Selig starting the baseball season in Australia.” Schein: “Wee hours of the morning, no buzz, no juice, nobody cares. Classic Bud Selig” (“Loud Mouths,” SNY, 3/21).