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Diamondbacks, Dodgers prep for season opener Down Under

Sydney Cricket Ground

Sydney Cricket Ground has been transformed into a Major League Baseball venue, as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers prepare to open the season on March 22 in Australia.

Several games are on the agenda, beginning with a Thursday night (7 p.m. Sydney, 4 a.m. ET) game when the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Australian national team. The transformation of a huge cricket ground to a MLB venue has been overseen by various MLB folks, including Major League Baseball’s field and facilities coordinator Murray Cook. From

“I think we’re set to go,” said Cook, who, along with SCG curator Tom Parker, has overseen the conversion of the monstrous oval “pitch” that has featured top-level Aussie cricket since the 1850s and actually hosted an exhibition with the Chicago White Sox in 1914. “We’ll get the guys out here in the exhibitions, see how she plays, and we’ll see if they want it a little softer or a little harder. We’ll do what we’ve got to do to get it ready.”

So far, they’ve done plenty.

Crews removed all the grass and put in clay for the basepaths and home plate. The clay, all 200 tons of it, came into Sydney Harbour from California on a cargo ship labeled “quarried material,” and has the reddish hue of any storied big league park. New dugouts were built, outfield fencing, a batter’s eye, a warning track, foul territory fencing, foul poles screwed into large wooden boxes, batting tunnels and a backstop were added. This took 16 days.

The teams have suspended spring training and flown to Australia, finding plenty of fans looking for autographs when the teams landed. Here’s a first look from the Dodgers:

Another American firm involved in the makeover of Sydney Cricket Ground: Daktronics of Brookings, S.D.

“I think it’s great that professional baseball has ventured outside of the U.S. to expand their world-wide popularity as a sport, and Sydney Cricket Ground is a phenomenal venue to have been selected,” said Daktronics Vice President of Live Events Jay Parker. “Our video display installation in Sydney has proven to provide an extra element to those live sporting events and we’re confident that the display will maintain that level of excellence when the first pitch is thrown this spring.

Sydney Cricket Ground features a Daktronics 15HD LED video display that measures approximately 36 feet high by 81.5 feet wide. This display, installed in 2013, incorporates excellent image clarity and contrast with wide angle visibility while also providing multiple levels of protection from the elements. Officials there have been working to implement the essentials of a baseball scoreboard — the display of game, season and career statistics, as well as player information and between-innings messages.

“With the consultation and software that is being incorporated, fans in Australia will experience the same high-level game-day production as any game in the United States,” said Tony Kuck, Daktronics control systems product manager. “By providing that parallel experience, professional baseball meets their goal of putting their best foot forward in another country.”

Image courtesy Daktronics.

RELATED STORIES: MLB 2014 season to open in Australia


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