Dodgers, Diamondbacks arrive Down Under

DENNIS PASSA, AP Sports Writer
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Ground staff prepare the baseball field that has been especial built for the Major League Baseball opening series at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Monday, March 17, 2014. The MLB season-opening two-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney will be played this weekend. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Ground staff prepare the baseball field that has been especial built for the Major League Baseball opening series at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney, Monday, March 17, 2014. The MLB season-opening two-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney will be played this weekend. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

SYDNEY (AP) — The Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers arrived to a very low-key welcome in Australia on Tuesday for their Major League Baseball season-opening series this weekend after 15-hour flights from the U.S. west coast.

The Diamondbacks arrived first at Sydney airport about 6 a.m. local time Tuesday, followed about four hours later by the Dodgers.

“It’s great to be here,” said Dodgers’ veteran announcer Vin Scully.

There were only a few autograph seekers to meet both teams, unlike recent opening-day series in Tokyo where arriving teams were mobbed by fans. Several airport travelers Tuesday asked the media who the high-profile looking arrivals were.

Within six hours of arriving, the Diamondbacks held their first light workout at Sydney Cricket Ground, where Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers in Saturday’s season opener and left-hander Wade Miley replaces Patrick Corbin, who has a left elbow injury, as the Diamondbacks starter.

They’ll close out the two-game series Sunday when the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu is slated to start against Arizona’s Trevor Cahill.

Under sunny skies, Arizona first base coach Dave McKay was one of the first to survey the SCG diamond — 328 feet down the foul lines, 400 feet to straightaway center field.

“Looks all great,” said McKay. “Although I can’t believe the distance from home plate to the seats in foul territory. There’s quite a bit of room there.”

Manager Kirk Gibson watched the team stretch and take infield practice. Other coaches hit popups to the outfield and let them hit hard on the natural turf to determine the amount of bounce: the verdict was that there was a lot of it.

The infield dirt and sand combination was also tested, but there shouldn’t be anything unfamiliar in it: the MLB-certified dirt was imported from the United States in nearly 20 shipping containers.

The Dodgers will play Team Australia in an exhibition game Thursday, with the Diamondbacks to play Australia on Friday.

The series marks the first regular-season games in Australia. Previous MLB season openers were held in Monterrey, Mexico (1999), San Juan, Puerto Rico (2001) and four times in Tokyo, most recently in 2012.

The weekend games will mark the 100th anniversary of an exhibition game played by the Chicago White Sox and the New York Giants at the Sydney Cricket Ground, won 5-4 by the White Sox before 10,000 fans on Jan. 3, 1914.

Capacity crowds of about 40,000 are expected for both games.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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