The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox will play the first regular season MLB games on European soil and the first-ever baseball games in the United Kingdom with a two-game series over the weekend at London Stadium.
MLB previous played games in Mexico, Japan, and Australia. London Stadium, which hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics, is also the home pitch for West Ham United in the EPL. The multi-use soccer stadium has been reconfigured for American baseball.
Major League Baseball is attempting to make inroads into Europe, especially Great Britain.
“Baseball is an unique experience,” said Charlie Hill, the vice president of MLB International. “We want to give people in London that taste of an authentic Baseball game with all the little rituals.”
The game is only popular in the Netherlands thanks to their great baseball teams in Curacao and other parts of the Caribbean. NY Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius got knighted by the King of the Netherlands when he helped lead them to a victory in the Baseball World Cup in 2011.
Unlike the NFL, which typically sends some of the worst teams in the league to London, British fans will be treated to the World Series Champion playing against the best team in the American League. They also get a glimpse at one of the oldest and nastiest rivalries in all of American sports.
“More important than the two games is what continues to happen here in England after we’re gone,” said MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.
It sort of looks weird to see a baseball diamond inside London Stadium. The local grounds crew did a bang-up job at erecting a proper baseball field. They imported dirt from Slipper Rock, Pennsylvania for the infield and warning track. London Stadium will use artificial turf from France.
Center field is only 385 feet from home plate, which is at least 20-25 feet closer than the average center field in the big leagues. The 14-foot high fence might not be enough to prevent balls from flying out of London Stadium. It’s only 330 down the lines too, which should make things interesting.
The Bronx Bombers will try to extend their home run streak in England. They recently broke the previous mark of 27 games in a row with a home run, originally set by the 2002 Texas Rangers. The Yanks smacked homers in 29 games and counting.
The Yankees also have Aaron Judge back in the lineup after missing six-plus weeks with an oblique injury. The Yanks also have home run leader Edwin Encarnacion in the lineup after a trade with the Seattle Mariners.
Of course, there’s Scary Gary aka The Kraken. Catcher Gary Sanchez is the best hitting catcher in the game right now. He made the All-Star team as a starter along with Yankees team-MVP DJ LeMahieu, who will get the nod at second base despite the fact he has been playing three infield positions with the Yankees or wherever Aaron Boone inserts him that day.
On Deck: Yanks/Sox
The Yankees (52-28) are 9-1 in their last ten games during a homestand in the Bronx. They’re also 11-1 over their last 12 games and opened a 6.5-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in second place in the AL East.
The Yankees are 4-1 against the Red Sox this season.
The Red Sox (44-38) have been playing much better since they banned Fortnite in the clubhouse. They’re 9-games behind the Yankees, but still holding their head above water at 6-games above .500.
The Red Sox will be the home team in this series. The Yankees will send Masahiro Tanaka (5-5 and 3.21 ERA) to the mound for Game 1 against Rick Porcello (5-7 and 4.52) for the Red Sox.
Game 1 begins at 10:10am PT on Saturday. Game 2 begins at 7am PT on Sunday.
“I’ll get the honor of throwing the first pitch in Europe, and it’s awesome,” said Ricky Porcello. “It’s a big deal for our game, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Next season, the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs will also play games in London in 2020.