PHOENIX — Major League Baseball is heading down under.
The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will open the 2014 season at the Sydney Cricket Ground on March 22-23, the D-backs confirmed on Wednesday night.
The Diamondbacks will serve as home team for the first regular-season games to be played in Australia.
“We are honored that Major League Baseball selected our franchise to participate in the first-ever series in Australia,” D-backs President and CEO Derrick Hall said in a statement. “The Diamondbacks take great pride in promoting our brand, as well as the great sport, globally. Being at the forefront of spreading international goodwill on this prominent stage is a feat that we enthusiastically embrace and accept.”
The trip will mark the 100th anniversary of exhibition games played by the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants at the same traditional sports venue where the 2014 Opening Series will be played. The White Sox defeated the Giants, 5-4, before 10,000 fans on January 3, 1914. Major League Baseball’s history at the Sydney Cricket Ground dates back to December 1888, when Spalding’s World Tourists played a series of exhibition games, including a December 15, 1888, contest that attracted 5,500 spectators.
The Sydney Cricket Ground will be fully renovated to a baseball configuration and Major League standards, with an estimated capacity of 43,000.
Craig Shipley, who in 1986 became the first Australian to play in the Major Leagues since 1901, currently serves as an assistant to D-backs Executive Vice President and General Manager Kevin Towers. The D-backs have had one Australian on their major-league roster: outfielder Trent Oeltjen in 2009.
Both the D-backs and the Dodgers will play Spring Training games in Arizona on Sunday, March 16, before departing that evening and arriving on the morning of Tuesday, March 18. An evening game will be scheduled for Saturday, March 22, followed by an afternoon game on Sunday, March 23.
MLB has previously opened seasons in Monterrey, Mexico (1999); Tokyo, Japan (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012); and San Juan, Puerto Rico (2001).
Australia is home to the six-team Australian Baseball League, which featured homegrown talent and professionals from North America and Asia. The league’s 40-game season runs from November through January.
New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell said he anticipates $13 million in economic impact for the Sydney area. The series will be showcased to an estimated global TV audience of up to 168 million. .