It seems like only yesterday I was putting up one set of holiday decorations and now I find myself doing the exact same thing again only this time it counts. While normally I have a difficult time sleeping on Opening Day Eve, this year Major League Baseball was more than willing to help me find a purpose for my insomnia.
With the regular season scheduled to begin in just 13 hours 39 minutes and 17 seconds MLB decided the day before the season starts would be the perfect time for an exhibition game. Not just any exhibition game but a game featuring the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Australian National team at the Sydney Cricket Grounds.
This would be the first time fans in Arizona would get to see the Sydney Cricket Grounds other than the few photos that the team and its traveling party have provided. It was the perfect way to start off your day. And by start off your day I mean stay up until 1 AM to watch a baseball game that has no meaning other than a tune-up for tomorrow’s clash with the Dodgers.
So while “normal” people were heading off to bed, I was sitting in front of the computer with a big bag of peanuts and 2 sealed bottles of water to watch an exhibition baseball game being played 7,792 miles away in a stadium built for cricket in the evening of a day I was just beginning. As I write that sentence it still makes no sense to me. But then again pretty much every sentence I write makes very little sense to anyone.
It seemed odd hearing Diamondbacks Public Address Announcer Chuck Drago introducing the line up from a different hemisphere. The hats, jerseys, and players all looked familiar but in a dream sequence sort of way. Even D.Baxter the Bobcat made an appearance down under. I have to admit; some of the fans in attendance seemed more than a little confused at the sight of a bobcat in a Diamondbacks jersey doing acrobatic moves on the dugout. I half-expected to see Baxter take a boomerang to the side of the head and end up on somebody’s Barbie (the grill not the children’s doll).
The game was not that exciting. The Diamondbacks struggled at the plate and the pitching staff looked like they were destined more for the starting rotation in Reno than in Phoenix (which they are). But the stands saw 16,897 excited fans see a Major League Baseball team face their national squad. For many, this was the first time they had seen major league players in person.
It was encouraging to see so many people wearing jerseys and have a great time with family and friends. The smiles and cheers were not so different than what you see here in the United States.
While there are players who complain about the travel and the inconvenience of flying half a world away to play two games; it was the look on the faces of those in attendance that showed why MLB thought this was a good idea.
Who knows, these games in Australia might just resonate with the youth in Australia and start someone on the path to baseball immortality. And even if the outcome is not so grandiose those that watched that game whether it was in the stands at the Sydney Cricket Grounds or huddled around a computer/tablet/phone likely gained an experience that will stay with them a lifetime.