Sydney opening for 2014 MLB season denied

ADRIAN PROSZENKO
Last updated 13:18 25/10/2012
Magic Johnson

COMING DOWN UNDER?: Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Dodgers could play the Arizona Diamondbacks in a regular season-opening series at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 2014.

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Major League Baseball dismissed a report that the Los Angeles Dodgers could open the 2014 season in Australia.

"We are not currently exploring the possibility with the Dodgers or any team to play in Australia," Pat Courtney, MLB's senior vice president of public relations, said today.

Australian promoters told the Sydney Morning Herald they were working on a deal that could have the Dodgers open with a three-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

MLB opened its season at Tokyo in 2000, 2004, 2008 and this year, at Monterrey Mexico, in 1999, and at San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2001.

Sports promoter Jason Moore said he has been in negotiations to make the series happen for six years and hoped a deal will be signed by the end of the year.

The plan was for the series to be played in late March - the start of Australia's autumn - and for the teams to stay in Sydney for six days.

Any series would mark the 100-year anniversary of Major League Baseball's first foray into Australia. The Chicago White Sox played exhibition games at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1914.

"It's the cornerstone of our international initiatives," MLB Australia chief Tom Nicholson said. "It's a once-in-a-100-year event."

Major League Baseball partly funds the Australian Baseball League, which has six teams and plays its season from November through February. That allows some minor league prospects from Major League teams to play in Australia during the off-season in North America. 

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the proposed three-game series will be a huge coup for Australian sport, with the games to be televised to an audience of almost 300 million viewers across 81 countries. It's estimated the event will attract up to 25,000 overseas tourists and generate $A80 million for the NSW economy

The presence of Los Angeles Lakers NBA legend Magic Johnson, a minority owner of the Dodgers and one of the most identifiable figures in world sport, is a further selling point to what will be one of the biggest events since the Sydney Olympics.

Destination NSW, MLB and Australian Baseball League officials have been working on the project for several years, but the identity of teams has been a heavily guarded secret. However, Sydney Blue Sox chairman Bob Turner let it slip at his team's season launch, attended by Premier Barry O'Farrell and NSW Sports Minister Graham Annesley, at Parliament House yesterday.

''If we can get Major League Baseball's season opener, which we're working on, in a couple of years' time at the SCG, it will really put the game on the map,'' Turner said. ''Especially if we can get the LA Dodgers to come, where Magic Johnson is the spokesman-owner. That would be great for the game to give us a profile no other sport can really match.''

''We've been to the altar a couple of times and we know believe we're getting up to bat, so to speak,'' Moore said. ''This will be the biggest sporting event in Sydney since the 2003 Rugby World Cup final.

''The time zone and the scheduling of the game means we're maximising the exposure throughout the world. Our planned Sunday afternoon game will go live to the West Coast USA at 8pm prime time on Saturday night. We're not talking about exhibition games - we're talking about the first three real deal competition games.''

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The plan is for the series to be played in March and that the two teams - which will each arrive on their chartered 747s - will stay in Sydney for six days.

But rather than being a one-off, Moore hopes the MLB will return to Australia every four years.

''In a perfect world scenario we'd like to think we could do this not only in '14 but '18, '22, '26 [and beyond]," he said. ''The big picture is to make this Dodger City on the other side of the Pacific.''

- Sydney Morning Herald, Stuff

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