As boxing fixtures go, the upcoming Major League Baseball games at the SCG could be real humdingers.
Nine months ago, a game between the LA Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks degenerated into tit-for-tat brandings at the hands of the respective pitchers and then into an all-in brawl resulting in eight player suspensions.
The SCG Trustees could no doubt believe their luck. The very next day it was announced that the two teams would open the 2014 MLB season 12,000 kilometres from home in Sydney.
If you’re worried they might have kissed and made up in the meantime, don’t be. The last time they played each other, in September, the Dodgers took a dip in the Diamondbacks’ pool after winning the National League West title and the home team went ballistic.
What’s the biggie, you ask? It’s just a swimming pool. Ah, but it’s a swimming pool made sacred by the Diamondbacks themselves when they celebrated a previous title win with a team dunking.
That the Dodgers had the temerity to mimic this victory ritual had Arizona Senator John McCain, no stranger to coming second in a big contest, tweeting: “No-class act by a bunch of overpaid, immature, arrogant, spoiled brats!” while one Phoenix journalist called for “a high-profile draining and cleansing of the pool. Maybe even bring in Bill Murray in a HAZMAT suit.”
Down Under, while the teams have tried to play down any residual animosity, quotes like “Our focus is on taking these guys down” and “These aren’t friendly games” have still found their way into media conversations.
So there’s a reasonable chance we could get two sports for the price of one in the ticket price.
For what it’s worth — and it’s worth $US310 million — this weekend represents the highest paid assortment of sports stars ever to set foot in Australia.
The Dodgers make up $220 million of that amount, with pitcher Clayton Kershaw (pictured above) recently signing a seven-year deal worth an eye-watering $215 million. Kind of puts Buddy Franklin in the shade, doesn’t it?
It’s also a far cry from the Australian representative team that toured the US in 1897, who didn’t even have baseball mitts and later discovered there wasn’t enough money to get back to Australia.
A further $2 million has been spent converting the SCG into a baseball field, including the importation of 250 tonnes of San Diego clay.
The transformation hasn’t pleased everyone. Cricket purists are miffed that they now have to travel three hours to Canberra to watch a NSW Sheffield Shield home final.
But let’s be honest. As much as I love my cricket, the Blues were never going to fill the SCG for four days or attract the 170 million global viewers the baseball is going to bring.
So, I’m up for the spectacle. My daughter and I will be there tonight, watching Team Australia take on the Dodgers. If only to see what $220 million looks like.