MLB Expects Sellouts For Dodgers-D-Backs Games In Sydney This Weekend
MLB is close to a sellout at the 40,000-seat Sydney Cricket Ground for this weekend's two Opening Series games in Australia. The Dodgers and D-Backs will each play a team of Australian nationals, including nine under contract to MLB teams, before playing each other in the first two games of the '14 season at the 166-year-old cricket field. Crowds of 10,000-15,000 are expected for the two exhibition games. Moore Sports is the local promoter. D-Backs pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith, an Australia native, is expected to pitch for Team Australia against the Dodgers one night, and face Team Australia as a member of the D-Backs in the next game. Major sponsors for the Opening Series are tourism agency Destination New South Wales; Qantas Airlines; Guggenheim Partners; which owns the Dodgers and the Sydney Cricket Trust, which owns the stadium that has been converted to a baseball diamond this week. ESPN Australia is carrying all four games and will sponsor a "fan party deck" in the outfield. New Era, Majestic and Rawlings are producing commemorative items, many of which will be sold through official retailer Rebel Sports. Including the teams and league officials, more than 500 people traveled to Sydney for the games. MLB Senior VP/Int'l Operations Paul Archey said, "We'll have a full ballpark and we expect a strong television rating, but this will be evaluated on what kind of platform it gives MLB and where we go from here. We're looking to energize our fan base, our business partners and create new fans and players here." According to MLB, broadcast revenue from Australia has increased by 81% since '08, with 388 live MLB games televised last season. The four-year-old Australian Baseball League, of which MLB is a majority owner, has catalyzed a more than fourfold increase in sales of MLB-licensed merchandise in Australia since '10. The games will be televised live in 151 countries and more than 330 million TV households worldwide.
COVERAGE APLENTY IN AUSTRALIA: MLB's first regular-season game in Australia is receiving a substantial amount of coverage in local newspapers. In Sydney, the Daily Telegraph on Wednesday wrote a feature on L.A. Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw, declaring in the headline that he will be "the star of the show at the SCG on Saturday night." The Sydney Morning Herald profiled Kershaw and noted in one season he will earn "more money than 150 NRL players across six different clubs combined." The story focuses on Kershaw's $215M contract and his "perfect lifestyle." In Melbourne, The Age published a story about the Dodgers batting practice Wednesday, and predicted "Nintendo numbers" for this weekend's series, citing player comments (SBD Global).
TRIBUTE TO COLLEGE PLAYER: MLB will honor Christopher Lane before Saturday's second Dodgers-D-Backs game at SCG. The Australian, who played college baseball in the U.S. at East Central University, was shot and killed while jogging along a road in the small town of Duncan, Okla., last August. MLB told SBD Global that it invited Lane's family to Sunday's game, where the league will have a special recognition on the field prior to the game. Two of the three teenagers accused of the crime have been ordered to stand trial on first-degree murder charges. The third one has turned state's witness in the hope he will have his charge downgraded. A date for the trial has not been set yet (HJ Mai, SBD Global).