Sarah's Take: Australia a step toward globalization

Dodgers showcase pitching, sweep historic Opening Series Down Under

Sarah's Take: Australia a step toward globalization

The 2014 baseball season began in Australia with a two-game series involving division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers swept the series.

For a long time, many people in Australia have wanted Major League Baseball to open its season there. After all, in recent years, MLB had opened its season in Japan, Puerto Rico, and Mexico. Australia, gracious host to both the Dodgers and the D-backs, figured it was its time to have a Major League game in its beautiful country.

It had taken more than four years to arrange this historic series. The series was played in Sidney Cricket Ground, which was built during the 19th century. The magnificent stadium underwent many transformations to be ready to host a Major League game. The stadium, though it had an incredibly hard infield, didn't affect the play.

Baseball has envisioned having a true World Series someday. To accomplish this large goal, baseball needs to create excitement around the world for the sport. Having a true World Series is conceivable in the next 20 years if the popularity of the sport continues to grow.

The Dodgers have always been a leader in the globalization of the sport. They introduced Fernando Valenzuela from Mexico, Hideo Nomo from Japan, and Chan Ho Park from South Korea. These pitchers became Major League stars and opened doors for their fellow countrymen to play baseball in America. In the 1980s, Craig Shipley, an Australian, became a Dodgers infielder. Although he never reached the stardom that the Dodgers hoped, he still is in the game as an assistant to Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers.

Right now, the Dodgers have an international team with Hyun-Jin Ryu from South Korea, Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe and José Dominguez from the Dominican Republic, Kenley Jansen from Netherlands Antilles, and Yasiel Puig and Alex Guerrero from Cuba. The Dodgers mirror the diversity of the city that the team represents. Seeing the Dodgers work together helps the citizens of Los Angeles work together, despite being from different backgrounds.

In the two games Down Under, the Dodgers showcased their superb pitching until the ninth inning of the second game. The Diamondbacks, still reeling from losing their young ace Patrick Corbin for the year to a probable Tommy John surgery, displayed potential pitching problems. They also had a team-wide slump while in Australia.

While in Arizona, Clayton Kershaw -- with the added pressure to perform after signing a seven-year contract -- didn't pitch up to his standards. He didn't have his customarily good control or wicked curveball.

But as soon as Opening Day arrived, Kershaw regained the form that enabled him to win two out of the last three Cy Young Awards. He held the Diamondbacks to one run over 6 2/3 Innings.

Scott Van Slyke proved his worth to the Dodgers in the first game of the series. The media has concentrated on the Dodgers probably carrying four All-Star outfielders, and most teams carry five outfielders. Van Slyke is the fifth outfielder for the Dodgers. He had a two-run home run and a double that set up the Dodgers' third run. Van Slyke will play an integral role on the Dodgers as a bench player.

Playing in Australia was good for the globalization of baseball. Both the D-backs and the Dodgers had an abbreviated spring, so the level of play wasn't as good as a typical Opening Day, but it was fun to see the Aussies' excitement for every fly ball. Both teams now have a week to combat jetlag and get ready for the regular season.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sdmorris27@outlook.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.