Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sydney Cricket Ground, Up Close And Personal

While AC and I wait for our bags to come out on the conveyor belt, let's pass on this post from ESPN.com's Mark Saxon, who is apparently already in Sydney at the SCG:

They’ve got the bunting up in time for Opening Day as usual. The red-white-and-blue cloth, in this case, is decked out along the railings of a building that was almost 50 years old the day Wrigley Field opened its gates.

“This is sacred ground,” says Scott Egelton, the director of the Sydney Cricket Ground.

It might be sacred, but some of it is now foul ground -- and there's a lot of it. Major League Baseball, for the next week, is taking over the most historic sporting venue in Australia.

British troops played cricket at this spot in the 1850s. What’s known today as the Sydney Cricket Ground opened its doors in the 1880s, and two of the original buildings are still standing. They’re wood with pale green pillars.

One of them is the Members Pavilion and next to it is the Ladies Pavilion, where, until the 1970s, women were segregated from their husbands. Some people have chosen to have their ashes scattered on the pitch, and their names are commemorated on little silver plaques that line a white picket fence.

Major League Baseball sent Murray Cook here weeks ago. His expertise is carving out baseball fields out of non-baseball playing lands. He has built baseball fields in Beijing, Frankfurt, Germany, and here in Sydney for the 2000 Olympics. He and his crew got the field in working order using the materials on hand, though they had to import a few hundred tons of clay from Southern California to make a proper infield.

The field looks like most any other major league field. The foul ground is more generous than most -- though not quite as expansive as it is in Oakland -- and, to avoid making it such a pitchers' park, Cook pinched the corners. You only have to hit it 328 feet down the lines for a home run.

The builders had to build dugouts where there were none. They are smaller than most. The steps were so steep, Arizona coach Mark Grace muttered, “Good Lord, don’t they know how un-athletic we ballplayers are?” as he struggled to make his way down them at Tuesday’s workout.

I can't wait to see these two games!