The MLB has staged regular-season games in Japan, Australia, Mexico and Puerto Rico, but nothing it has attempted overseas comes close to the scope of what it plans to do in June next year, when the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox cross the pond to play two games.
“This will be our biggest [international] project yet,” Phil Bradley, the players’ union’s special assistant for domestic and international events, said this week.
The MLB knows that by bringing two of the US’ most iconic teams and the game’s biggest rivalry, it has a rare opportunity to build momentum in a new and potentially lucrative European market.
The league is also trying to do anything it can to make London Stadium look like a big-league ballpark, giving British fans the impression they are actually at a US stadium.
This is not easy to do. London Stadium, built for the Olympics and home to West Ham United and athletics events, does not have the natural look of a quaint US ballpark.
Transforming it into something that closers resembles Yankee Stadium is to take significant work, which is why several people from the league’s UK office were in Washington over the past week for the All-Star Game, studying Nationals Park and creating a blueprint that would give off the feel of a MLB game.
“There are a lot of additions to ensure that it isn’t any old stadium, but actually built like a ballpark,” MLB UK office managing director Charlie Hill said.
“For a number of people in the UK, this will be their first time to go to a baseball game. You want to give them something that feels compelling,” he said.
This means moving seats in the stadium to create a ballpark’s intimacy, as well as building party decks and special seating areas, but it also means making dugouts and building clubhouses on the indoor running track beneath the stadium’s stands, which is more than the MLB has done in any of the other places it has gone for regular-season games.
The locker rooms in London Stadium are excellent for soccer, but major-league clubhouses are significantly larger with more amenities, Hill said.
However, nothing in the project is to be bigger than the field that the MLB must build.
In its other international endeavors, it used existing baseball fields. There is no way to cut infield dirt into West Ham’s pitch.
Instead, the MLB is going to install a field on top of the soccer pitch, laying a protective cover over the grass and installing new sod a few centimeters above the current playing surface.
All for two baseball games.
Already, the interest in tickets shown from people in the UK has been a surprise, Hill said.
That has put more pressure on the league to create as authentic a feel as possible.
“How would you transform the London Stadium, the Olympic stadium into a baseball field?” Hill asked. “I don’t think it’s pragmatically how do you build a field, how do you build clubhouses, but how do you generate an atmosphere that is actually a baseball atmosphere?”
The All-Star Game provides some guidance, because it is a big event with side attractions like fan festivals that the MLB hopes to operate during London’s games, but even as Hill and his staffers walked around Nationals Park, they were not trying to copy what they saw, but take ideas.
For instance, the layout of London Stadium is to limit the center field fence to about 119m, making it a very much a hitter’s park.
“This is a blank canvas, but London Stadium has its own certain character,” he said. “Every ballpark is unique. Ours will be too.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said that he had called in the “third umpire” as he announced that recreational cricket would be allowed to resume next weekend. In a radio interview earlier on Friday, Johnson angered thousands of club cricketers by saying that the amateur game was still not safe to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic because of issues surrounding communal teas and dressing rooms. “It’s the teas, it’s the changing rooms and so on and so forth. There are other factors involved that generate proximity which you might not get in a game of tennis,” he said. Johnson had already
Hong Kong media reported that police briefly detained a man in a Liverpool team jersey who shouted “long live Liverpool” during anti-government protests on Wednesday, over suspicion that he was inciting independence. In-Media reported that the man was across the street from police officers who were conducting stop-and-searches on a group of protesters, when he shouted: “Long live Liverpool.” Others reportedly cheered and joined in the chant, before officers detained him. The man told In-Media that police had accused him of inciting Hong Kong independence, which now is a punishable crime. He said that he has been a fan of the English soccer
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is already in Florida with the rest of his Toronto teammates, and he knows the time to take a stand and counter the NBA plan to restart the season has passed, but his opinion on the matter has not changed. “It sucks,” VanVleet said on Monday in a videoconference of his choice to return to the court during the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter campaign. “It’s terrible timing, but that’s been 2020 for us. We all know the right thing to do is to not play, to take a stand. Morally, yes, that makes sense, but
Legendary batsman Everton Weekes, the last of the famed West Indies “Three Ws,” died on Wednesday at the age of 95 and was hailed as “a founding father” of the sport in the Caribbean. “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of an icon. A legend, our hero, Sir Everton Weekes,” Cricket West Indies (CWI) wrote on Twitter. “Our condolences go out to his family, friends and many fans around the world. May he rest in peace.” Barbadian Weekes was part of a feared post-World War II West Indies team who also featured Clyde Walcott and Frank Worrell. Walcott died in