Updated: 03/20/2014 03:00 | By Agence France-Presse

G'day for Dodgers, D-backs in Sydney openers

Major League Baseball launches its 2014 season this weekend with a historic two-game series in Australia aimed at boosting the sport's global appeal, particularly with sports fans Down Under.

G'day for Dodgers, D-backs in Sydney openers

View of the Sydney Cricket Ground on November 15, 2013 - by Greg Wood

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Dodgers will stage a pair of National League contests at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which has not hosted the sport since the Chicago White Sox played a 1914 exhibition there.

"The globalization of our game continues to be paramount to Major League Baseball and Australia is an essential part of our long-term efforts to grow the sport," said Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. 

"We look forward to writing an exciting new chapter in international baseball history."

It will also begin the final season in Selig's tenure as commissioner, which began in 1992 on an interim basis and will conclude next January.

Under Selig, the major leagues have shipped season openers worldwide, playing such showcase matches in Japan in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 as well as staging openers in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

The trip has had its critics, some saying the headaches of long flights and disruption of preparation for the six-month season is not worth the benefits of spreading the sport's popularity worldwide.

"There is absolutely zero excitement for it," Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke told ESPN last month. "I can't think of one reason to be excited for it.

"It's an ownership things, spreading stuff around."

Greinke did not join the Dodgers for the trip due to a sore calf, leaving South Korea's Ryu Hyun-Jin and Clayton Kershaw, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner as top pitcher, as starters on the mound for Los Angeles against their NL West division-rival Diamondbacks.

"As an organization, we couldn't be more excited about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Dodgers president Stan Kasten.

The Diamondbacks will be without left-handed ace pitcher Patrick Corbin, who had been slated to go against Kershaw in the opener but suffered a major ligament injury in his left arm last Saturday that could sideline him for the entire season.

Southpaw Wade Miley will open for Arizona in game one with right-hander Trevor Cahill against Ryu in game two.

While the games will offer both teams a relaxed atmosphere, both are serious about wanting to begin the season well.

"We want to win. That's number one," said Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson. "We are going to have some time to enjoy Australia and the culture and the people but at the same time we are there for baseball."

The Dodgers used a special watch, which tracks bio-rhythms and heart rate, to help try to adjust to jet lag after a 17-hour flight.

"I hope it's a good experience for everybody," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "It would be great if we had really good games and we won both of them."

The Dodgers were the first modern-era US squad to sign an Australian-born player, inking a deal with former infielder Craig Shipley, who is now an assistant to the general manager for Arizona.

"MLB going to play an opening series outside of the country is a big deal," Shipley said. "This one will be very special. And it's great for baseball."

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