On a beautiful, warm, early autumn night in Sydney, Australia, I watched the Los Angeles Dodgers take on Team Australia at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). It was an exhibition game before Saturday’s Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Opening Series where the Dodgers will take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. Team Australia took the lead early but ended up losing 4-2 in what turned out to be an exciting game after Yasiel Puig’s seventh inning home run.
The smaller-than-expected crowd was rooting for Team Australia but the biggest ovation came in response to Puig’s home run. A friend sitting next to me said Australians are respectful fans and are just excited to see their first MLB homerun.
Team Australia has a combined team salary of about $1 million compared to the Dodgers’ $245 million yearly player salaries so the crowd was excited to see their team hold their own. Don Mattingly, the Dodgers manager, was quoted after the game as saying, “They were good. Those guys threw the ball good. It shows that baseball is all over the world. We always talk about pitching—you get good pitching and you get a chance. They played the game well.”
Although the stands were half empty, the lines were long to buy MLB merchandise and most of the shops were donning Dodger blue. However, it was the first time I’d ever been to a baseball game where fans were wearing jerseys and caps from practically every Major League Baseball team—and era, as many had jerseys of baseball legends like Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente.
Besides getting pregame field access for batting practice, I got the biggest kick out of seeing the food they served. The SCG regular food outlets included Doyles, famous for their Saltwater Barramundi and Chips ($13.80 AUD) and other seafood dishes. Next door was the Pie Emporium selling a variety of meat pies and a few other food outlets.
But the biggest surprise was seeing all of the food tents (cash only) outside offering Los Angeles Dodger Dogs. They’re really nothing like the Dodger Dogs in Los Angeles, as back home they’re plain steamed frankfurters with the option of going to one of the condiment stations that has raw chopped onions, ketchup, mustard and relish.
In Sydney, Dodger Dogs are topped with caramelized onions, pico de gallo, and cheese ($15.50 AUD). The Arizona Dog was the same price but topped with American beef chili, cheese sauce, pinto or refried beans, pico de gallo, and cheese.
Other notable food included: LA Street Soft Shell Tacos (carnitas pulled pork, adobe grilled chicken and Baja fish tacos) starting at $8 AUD. Then there was grilled thick-cut bacon dipped in maple syrup and cayenne pepper and served on a skewer called The Streaker.
The Chipper, which was nachos topped with slow-cooked meat (chili beef, pulled pork or smoked brisket), is served in a plastic Dodgers or D-Backs baseball helmet.
By far the most talked about was the All-American SuperDog, a 24-inch long smoked frankfurter topped with American beef chili, cheese sauce, tomatoes, onions and cheddar cheese for $40 AUD. Most passersby scoffed at the price tag but it was actually a better value to feed a family.
As for beer, the American sponsor was Miller but the Australian beers on tap were Victoria Bitter (VB), Bulmers Original Cider, Pure Blonde and Carlton Draught.
Prior to the first pitch, baseball facts and terminology were displayed on screens around the stadium. I’d never even heard of some of the phrases before. I had no idea Uncle Charlie meant a curveball, did you?
During the American National Anthem, the words were displayed on screens, which I thought was a great touch. Seats in high risk zones had stickers on the back of them warning, “BE AWARE OF FLYING OBJECTS LEAVING THE FIELD.” They also encouraged all guests to practice baseball etiquette, saying, “PLEASE WAIT for a stop in play before moving to and from your seat.”
Other American-esque notables included Kiss Cams, “Which Cap?”games and the singing of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” during the seventh-inning stretch.
It was a surreal experience to see a Major League baseball game in Australia and the players, coaches and even the announcers seemed genuinely excited to be here.
Overall, it was a fantastic night and as Anthony Dennis from The Sydney Morning Herald put it…it was an interesting cultural experience.
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