London to host first MLB games in Europe
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The Yankees and Red Sox will meet twice at London Stadium this weekend in the first Major League Baseball games ever played in Europe.
Why it matters: Since taking office four years ago, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has vowed to increase baseball's international presence, and the London Series is the league's most ambitious effort yet.
- Previous trips abroad included Japan and Mexico, both of which have robust baseball cultures. By comparison, most people in the U.K. know next to nothing about the sport, something MLB views as both a challenge and an opportunity.
Details: MLB is making baseball education a priority this weekend, while also ensuring that fans get the true "ballpark experience."
- Education: Explanations of certain plays will appear on the scoreboard, and concession stands will sell portable radios to help confused spectators follow along.
- Experience: Groundskeepers will dance to "Y.M.C.A." ... Fans will sing "Sweet Caroline" ... "The Freeze" is flying in from Atlanta to chase down some fans ... There will be a mascot race between Freddie Mercury, Winston Churchill, King Henry VIII and the Loch Ness Monster.
Also, get this: Vendors walking up and down the aisle is a foreign concept to most Londoners, so concession workers have been trained on how to make fans feel comfortable paying from their seats.
"We're going to ask people to hand their money down the row of strangers and then have a bag of peanuts tossed over to them by a hawker. That's not something they're used to."— Charlie Hill, VP of MLB International (via NYT)
Where they'll be playing:
London Stadium is a 60,000 seat stadium in the Stratford district that was built for the 2012 Summer Olympics and is currently home to West Ham United of the English Premier League.
- "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," per NYT.
- "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."
Go deeper: Baseball's season of extremes