March 23, 2014
SYDNEY — Yasiel Puig and Paul Goldschmidt hadn’t left the stadium before workers began dismantling what was quite an impressive place to play baseball.
For a week, at least.
Home plate was dug up, the pitcher’s mound flattened and the eight-foot-high perimeter home run fence taken down within an hour after Puig’s Los Angeles Dodgers beat Goldschmidt’s Arizona Diamondbacks 7-5 Sunday.
It was a two-game Dodgers’ sweep of Major League Baseball’s opening weekend at Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw won the Saturday opener 3-1, sending the Diamondbacks back to the U.S. 0-2 to start the season and with the L.A. team holding a very early two-game lead in the AL West over their Arizona adversaries.
The regular season will resume next weekend for both teams, with a few exhibition games scheduled this week while they recover from jet lag after the 15-hour flights Down Under and back.
The cricket ground, and Australian baseball fans, meanwhile, may never be the same.
Nearly 80,000 fans attended the weekend games at the 162-year-old ground in leafy Moore Park, minutes from downtown Sydney.
Clearly, sports-mad Australia loved having the world’s best baseball players in Sydney. So did their rugby, cricket, soccer and Aussie Rules football stars who took time to mingle with Kershaw and Puig, among others, for photo shoots.
It was a mutual admiration society, with Kershaw posing on his birthday with a kangaroo and kicking around a rugby ball on the eve of his opener. Puig and Goldschmidt even tried their hand at cricket.
Cracker Jack and two-foot-long hotdogs became part of the menu at the SCG snack bars, and MLB commissioner Bud Selig was non-committal about a return to Australia in the near future.
Australian fans might like to see it sooner than later. Never were foul balls into the stands more heartily cheered, because they could keep them. In cricket, where balls are changed only after a predetermined amount of play, they must be returned to the field.
“This event was outstanding, really cool,” Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson said. “The crowds were great. The preparation from the city of Sydney was outstanding. They treated us well.”
Scherzer fails to reach agreement
LAKELAND, Fla. — Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers failed to reach agreement on a long-term contract and will not negotiate again until after the season.
The Tigers say in a statement that Scherzer rejected their most recent offer. The 2013 Cy Young Award winner struck out 240 batters in 214 1-3 innings last season, and went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA.
Scherzer, who will make $15.53 million this season, has said he does not want to discuss contract matters during the season.
NFL owners will discuss rule changes
ORLANDO, Fla. — NFL owners could be making make plenty of news this week at their spring meetings.
They will consider 13 playing rules proposals and seven bylaws. They will discuss expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams, although a vote on such a move is uncertain.
Some changes seem to be sure things: extending the height of the goal posts 5 feet to help determine if kicks are good; eliminating overtime in preseason games; placing fixed TV cameras on the goal lines, end lines and sidelines to help replay reviews.
Perhaps the juiciest suggestions came from the Patriots. They want to move the line of scrimmage to the 25 for extra points, and to allow coaches to challenge any calls except on scoring plays, which are automatically reviewed.
Indiana football player leaves hospital
SARASOTA, Fla. — A hospital spokeswoman says Indiana wide receiver Isaac Griffith has been discharged following a near drowning along Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Sarasota Memorial Hospital spokeswoman Kim Savage says Griffith was discharged Sunday and that he and his family will be heading home to Indiana soon.
Savage has said Griffith is expected to make a full recovery.
A friend rescued the 19-year-old Fort Wayne Homestead product after he was caught in a rip current March 17 at Siesta Beach in Sarasota. The friend performed CPR on Griffith until emergency personnel arrived on the scene.