The 2014 MLB Opening Series in Sydney was a huge success with over 76,000 in attendance. See what our founder Andy Thomas thought of the event and got up to over the weekend.
The Day Before
Despite arriving in Sydney first thing on the Friday (a day before the first game), I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of MLB caps and t-shirts everywhere from the airport to Sydney CBD.
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The Official Souvenir Opening Series Ball[/caption]
The excitement for the series really kicked in when I started seeing huge Opening Series flags and billboards surrounding the city, and impressive displays in stores such a Rebel Sport where I picked up my official souvenir baseball.
After walking around the CBD, I headed to Darling Harbour as I had heard there would be some fan zone activities down there but unfortunately I missed them. I did however get to see out some huge MLB floating baseballs in the Harbour.
After some sightseeing in Manly & Bondi, I decided to head to the game early on Saturday night however it seems everyone else had the same idea as the lines outside the ground were huge.
I was wrapped to see how passionate and excited everyone was for the game however I was a bit disappointed that a lot of the crowd was wearing Dodgers stuff as I was hoping it would be a nice even spread of fans for all teams.
Once the gates opened I was surprised at how quickly I got through the gates and got to my seat. I was even more surprised at how great my seats were as I was only about 10 or so rows from the front near left field.
After getting my first beer for the night and heading back to my seat, the players came out and started their warmups. Much to my surprise a lot of practise balls flew into my section which was great fun and afterwards players threw balls into the crowd which a great experience.
Despite a bit of early drizzle, the rain held off and after an almost perfectly thrown opening pitch from Australian of the year and Sydney Swans player, Adam Goodes, the action was underway.
After a strong performance from star Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, the game seemed to end quite quickly and the Dodgers came away with a easy 3-1 win.
After a weather delayed humid, dark, drizzly and somewhat intense opening night, I was looking forward to a more relaxed and laid back Game 2. After ordering my first beer for the day and finding my seat, Sydney came through with the goods producing perfectly warm weather which really made the SCG glisten.
Disappointingly the players didn't perform warmups on the second day (that I caught anyway despite getting there early), and the second day kicked off quite quickly and was more about the actual game itself rather than an entertainment spectacle.
The crowd seemed to be a bit older and more chilled back on the second day which made for a perfect Sunday afternoon at the faux ball park.
The Dodgers came out strong and it looked like it was going to be very one sided affair until Diamondback Mark Trumbo hit a two run homer late in the game to make things interesting.
Despite the late Diamondbacks surge, the Dodgers swept the series with the 7-5 game 2 win.
The atmosphere was amazing considering the popularity of American Baseball in Australia compared to other sports. I found myself really enjoying the event all the way throughout and the crowd was loud and well behaved. We even got a couple of great mexican waves going and the two guest MC's did a good job of getting the crowd involved through various competitions and games.
Not sure about others, but I was pleasantly surprised at how great my seats were, how quickly I was able to get into the ground and how easy it was to find toilets and food stands close to my seat.
Drinks & Food
The food and drinks situation was a bit of a hit and miss. If you wanted good food you had to lineup for ages and pay a fair bit for it, but depending on how long you waited it was worth it. It was a shame that there were only limited stands for the permium US hot dogs, nachos, etc and the only food that was easy to purchase were things like Meat Pies and Chips.
Food, Drink & Merch Stand Queues
I refused to lineup in the queues and miss half of the game during Game 1 and settled for Meat Pies, cheap beer and not buying merchandise just to see the game. I felt sorry for some as they surely waited close to an hour in the huge lines just to grab some nachos in a helmet or a jersey.
Game 2 seemed a bit better for lines however half of everything was sold out and I was very disappointed that the Chippers & Nachos that I paid full price for came without a souvenir helmet or any toppings as they were sold out. Strangely and disappointingly, the venue later started selling the *sold out* souvenir helmets for almost the same price as the Nachos.
More Player involvement
I would have liked to see the teams come over and interact with the crowd a bit more and some live player interviews would have added to the experience.
I was hoping we would get some fireworks, roulettes, skydivers or even a band but unfortunately there wasn't much in the way of entertainment like you see in the US.
Overall I thought the Opening Series was a success and I had a great time. Hopefully the 76,000 strong crowd proved that Australia wants more events like this and they become an annual event.