Baseball: From USA, with love

Baseball: From USA, with love

SYDNEY - Ushered to the front of the crowd, a young Australian baseball player grabbed the microphone to pose a question to Major League Baseball (MLB) stars, A J Ellis, of the LA Dodgers, and the Arizona Diamondbacks' All-Star pitcher, Patrick Corbin.

But the words never left the awestruck youngster.

Baseball is not associated even with sports-mad Australia but, on Tuesday, at the Sydney Opera House, where it was officially announced that the Dodgers and Diamondbacks will kick off the 2014 MLB season - playing two games on March 22 and 23 - it quickly became apparent that America's game had already caused a ripple Down Under.

Australia's hallowed Sydney Cricket Ground will be converted into a baseball field for the fixtures, complete with a pitcher's mound and dugouts.

PRE-SEASON FRIENDLIES

With tickets selling fast at the 40,000-capacity arena, the organisers revealed that Team Australia will face each of the MLB franchises in two pre-season friendlies to give more of the locals an opportunity to catch top-level baseball action.

"In addition to the opening series, we have added two exhibition games, on March 20 and 21, between each of the visiting teams and Team Australia," said New South Wales Premier, Barry O'Farrell.

"It will give another 80,000 people the opportunity to see baseball at its best, with Australian players against the best of the Major League."

The Ashes are poised to start in Australia tomorrow and an entire nation is gripped with the thought of revenge over the English, starting with the first Test at the Gabba in Brisbane.

For a few hours on Tuesday, though, there was a reprieve from cricket here, as baseball took centre stage.

This will be only the seventh time that MLB's opening game will be played outside of the United States, following previous matches in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Japan.

Australia actually boasts a professional league.

The MLB has a stake in the six-team Australian Baseball League (ABL) that was launched in 2010.

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