‘Hot Dogs! Cold Beer!’ M.L.B. Will Bring the Familiar to London Stadium

LONDON — Imagine stirring renditions of “Sweet Caroline” and “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” belted out by followers munching on Cracker Jack offered by roving distributors.

If that feels like a typical regular-season sport between the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, that’s the purpose in England this weekend. But it will likely be something however routine.

The groups are scheduled to play twice at London Stadium in the first regular-season Major League Baseball video games in Europe, and organizers are working to give the video games the taste of a typical June sequence in Boston or New York — or at the very least as a lot as doable in an Olympic-size stadium in the East End of London.

“Baseball is a unique experience,” mentioned Charlie Hill, the vp of M.L.B. International, which is predicated in London. “We want to give people in London that taste of an authentic baseball game with all the little rituals.”

Baseball has staged regular-season video games in Mexico, Australia and Japan, however bringing the massive leagues to Britain, the place cricket is the dominant bat-and-ball sport, will contain a few of the typical sights and sounds of baseball, however with a slight Cockney accent.

As far as anybody can inform, there have by no means been mascot races at both Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium for a Red Sox-Yankees sport. Those are principally reserved for Milwaukee (sausages), Washington (presidents) and the extra adventurous minors, however organizers of the London Series wished to add that individual slice of Americana.

So, a Twitter vote was held to determine Britain’s four most mascot-worthy figures. The queen didn’t quite make the cut, although Freddie Mercury of the rock band Queen was one of the winners. The other three to battle it out during the game will be Winston Churchill, King Henry VIII and the Loch Ness Monster.

(The Beatles and William Shakespeare failed to make it. And you thought the voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame was controversial).

The area on the ground, including the running track, is so vast that it required 141,900 square feet of artificial turf, imported from France, to cover it, plus the infield dirt and clay shipped in from Slippery Rock, Pa.

The 16-foot-high center-field wall will be 385 feet away from home plate — the rest of the walls will measure between four and eight feet. There is also a roof that extends over home plate, so there will be specific ground rules pertaining to balls hitting it.

One unique feature is that home plate will be on one side of the oval — not one of the ends — creating vast amounts of foul territory. Most fields in oval-shaped stadiums, like the old Polo Grounds and Olympic Stadium in Montreal, had home plate tucked into one end, or in a corner.

James Williams, London Stadium’s head groundsman, said that his crew has had to learn many new things about baseball fields.

“We even learned how to roll out the tarp,” he said. “This is definitely the biggest project I’ve ever been involved in. There’s been quite a few sleepless nights.”

This is also the first time the Red Sox and Yankees have played a regular-season game on plastic grass. When the series is over, the turf will be rolled up and stored until next year when the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs play in London.

Thirteen months ago, a contingent of major league officials toured the stadium with Gilmore, the stadium boss, to make sure it would be appropriate for baseball. The group included Commissioner Rob Manfred, Yankees and Red Sox owners, and members of the players’ association. Gilmore was surprised by something that had nothing to do with the field layout.

“I didn’t understand the power of the players union,” Gilmore said.

One concern was the clubhouses. Soccer locker rooms are generally more spartan than baseball clubhouses, so, swanky, temporary accommodations were built to accommodate the tastes and standards of major league baseball players. Dugouts also had to be built from scratch, along with a wall to separate the players as they enter the playing field.

When a reporter asked organizers about the possibility of rain, the response was glowering stares. But, you know, it has been known to rain in the British Isles.

Every attempt will be made to get the games in, and Williams, the stadium groundsman, said the field drainage system — which was put to the test by heavy downpours earlier this month — was enhanced for the series, with extra piping placed beneath a layer of stone chips.

But even though both teams have an off day scheduled for Monday, July 1, they would not play a makeup game in London, according to Hill. It is a home series for the Red Sox, so in the unlikely scenario of a rainout, the game would be made up in Boston. Most likely, though, if there is rain, they will wait it out and hope for the best.

“There are some massive challenges,” Gilmore said, “including the expectations of M.L.B. and the players’ union. We have to make sure we are at the top of our game.”

Source link Nytimes.com

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