Dodgers' Don Mattingly salutes the fans as he walks off the field after… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Australian promoters are pushing for the Dodgers to open their 2014 season in Sydney.
Two people familiar with the situation acknowledged that Major League Baseball is in discussions about the possibility of starting its 2014 season in Australia. But it appears the negotiations haven’t advanced to the point where specific teams are being included in the talks.
“We are not currently exploring the possibility with the Dodgers or any other team to play in Australia,” MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said.
A report in the Sydney Morning Herald made clear that the Dodgers are at the top of the wish list of the Australian parties involved. According to the report, the Arizona Diamondbacks would be the Dodgers’ “likely opponents” in a three-game series at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Sydney Blue Sox Chairman Bob Turner told the newspaper that the Dodgers’ participation could help raise the profile of the Australian Baseball League, in large part because of Magic Johnson’s ownership stake in the Los Angeles franchise.
“If we can get Major League Baseball's season opener, which we're working on, in a couple of years' time at the SCG, it will really put the game on the map,” Turner said. “Especially if we can get the L.A. Dodgers to come, where Magic Johnson is the spokesman-owner. That would be great for the game to give us a profile no other sport can really match.”
One potential obstacle: Because a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney is almost 14 hours, the players union might be reluctant to accept a proposal.
The upside is that the teams involved could raise their international profiles.
Jason Moore, director of the sports marketing firm that is trying to put the event together, told the Morning Herald, “The big picture is to make this Dodger City on the other side of the Pacific.”
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have been making an active push to enhance their global brand. The team’s top executive visited Japan in July and Mexico last week.
“If the possibility existed for the D-Backs to play overseas, we would most certainly be interested, but I would leave an official comment to MLB International,” Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall said in a statement released by the team.
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Bill Shaikin reported from San Francisco.