Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Trying to Move Forward in the Outback ; Australian Baseball Officials Hope MLB Series Can Fuel Popularity

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Trying to Move Forward in the Outback ; Australian Baseball Officials Hope MLB Series Can Fuel Popularity

Article excerpt

Former Boston Red Sox coach Jon Deeble, who's been around Australian baseball for more than 30 years, figures next weekend's season-opening, two-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney will have a "massive impact" on the sport Down Under. Certainly there's plenty of room for growth.

Baseball is not among the top 10 or 15 participation sports in Australia, well behind Australian Rules Football, rugby league, rugby union and cricket. Add to that list, among others, tennis, golf, basketball, the women's sport of netball and, according to government figures, recreational skiing.

Deeble manages the "Southern Thunder" Australian all-star team that will face the Dodgers on Thursday and the Diamondbacks the following day ahead of regular-season games on March 22-23 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. He says having "the best in the world" in Australia will translate into much-needed exposure.

"It will help the Australian Baseball League, kids who play the game, and that will convert hopefully into registrations," Deeble, who is a Pacific Rim scout for the Red Sox, said in a telephone interview. "It's also an opportunity for the players to see where they are really at, and something to ascribe to."

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks arrive in Sydney on separate charters Tuesday. They'll hold workouts at the cricket ground over the following two days before the pair of exhibition games against Team Australia. The opening series figures to feature Clayton Kershaw's fourth consecutive opening-day start for the Dodgers next Saturday, with Patrick Corbin on the mound for Arizona. The Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu is slated to start the second game against Trevor Cahill.

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 Tokyo (2000,' 04,' 08 and' 12).

And while baseball may be not have the interest or participation level of other sports in Australia, it has longevity. …

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