PHOENIX - The Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) will serve as the home team for Major League Baseball's 2014 Championship Season opener in Sydney, Australia on March 22-23. The D-backs will host the Los Angeles Dodgers at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground in the first season-opening event to be staged in an emerging baseball market, it was announced today at a news conference in Sydney.
"We are honored that Major League Baseball selected our franchise to participate in the first-ever series in Australia," said D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall. "The Diamondbacks take great pride in promoting our brand, as well as the great sport, globally. Being at the forefront of spreading international goodwill on this prominent stage is a feat that we enthusiastically embrace and accept."
The trip will mark the 100th anniversary of exhibition games played by the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants at the same traditional sports venue where the 2014 Opening Series will be played. The White Sox defeated the Giants, 5-4, before 10,000 fans on January 3, 1914. Major League Baseball's history at the Sydney Cricket Ground dates back to December 1888, when Spalding's World Tourists played a series of exhibition games, including a December 15, 1888 contest that attracted 5,500 spectators. The Sydney Cricket Ground will be fully renovated to a baseball configuration and Major League standards, with an estimated capacity of 43,000.
Craig Shipley, who in 1986 became the first Australian to play in the Major Leagues since 1901, currently serves as an assistant to D-backs Executive Vice President and General Manager Kevin Towers. The D-backs have had one Australian appear for them, as Trent Oeltjen was originally signed by the club in 2007 and made his big league debut with Arizona in 2009.
Both the D-backs and the Dodgers will play Spring Training games in Arizona on Sunday, March 16 before departing that evening and arriving on the morning of Tuesday, March 18. An evening game will be scheduled for Saturday, March 22, followed by an afternoon game on Sunday, March 23. The D-backs will be considered the home Club in both games.
The trip will mark the sixth international visit within a two-year span by Hall and the D-backs organization as they continue to expand the team's reach internationally. In August, Hall joined General Manager Kevin Towers and Luis Gonzalez on a goodwill tour of Japan and the club has taken three different trips to Mexico in the past eight months, visiting Hermosillo twice and Mexico City once as part of a Trade & Protocol Mission for the City of Phoenix. Hall and a contingent of 29 other D-backs employees are currently in the Dominican Republic on a goodwill trip.
MLB has previously opened seasons in Monterrey, Mexico (1999); Tokyo, Japan (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012); and San Juan, Puerto Rico (2001).
Twenty-eight (28) Major League players all-time were born in Australia, led by 19th Century infielder Joe Quinn, whose Major League career dates back to 1884. Seven of the 28 all-time Australian players were born in Sydney.
Sydney, a city of 5.5 million people, has hosted many major international sporting events, including the 2000 Summer Olympic Games, the 2003 Rugby World Cup, the 2009 World Masters Games, the Bledisloe Cup in Rugby Union, The Ashes cricket test series between England and Australia and the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
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 40-game season runs from November through January.