Selig delighted by reception in Australia
Commissioner confirms more international games in the works
SYDNEY -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig is as ecstatic as ever about the state of the game. That was the main takeaway from his press conference at Sydney Cricket Ground prior to the opening of MLB's 2014 season.
The Dodgers and D-backs played before a sellout crowd at Australia's biggest city's most hallowed sporting venue.
Selig said he was enjoying his stay in Sydney and took to watching the weather -- the opener was delayed 14 minutes by storm concerns -- and observing the Sydneysiders walking the bustling streets during the day. He was looking for signs, and he got some on Saturday.
"I was having lunch today, and watching people walk, the way I do in every city, someone walked by with a Pirate jacket and a Cardinal jacket," Selig said. "And it made me really happy."
The health of the sport is making Selig happy in general these days, and the treatment of the clubs, the hospitality of the Australian people, and the quality of the field and ballpark at the Cricket Ground have only enhanced that sentiment.
Selig said the trip to Australia is another example of his goal to truly make baseball an international sport insofar as one day having the title "World Series" be a literal one.
"We've done great domestically," Selig said. "Baseball's never been as popular as it is in the United States and other places, but the growth in the next decade-plus is going to be international, and that's why these trips are so important. And they're exciting. They're real exciting. We need to continue to play games in a lot of different places. ... I say if we do this right, you won't recognize how big and good this sport is in 10 or 15 years. "
Selig talked about the success and intensity of the World Baseball Classic several times during the press conference and specifically mentioned having attended a United States-Mexico matchup on a Friday night at Chase Field last year.
"I've been to seventh games of the World Series where there wasn't as much emotion in the ballpark," Selig said. "And I thought to myself that night, 'Imagine what this can be on a global level if we do this right?' So we need to continue to do this, and we need to step up the pace."
Selig said he's felt at home ever since arriving in Sydney earlier in the week, and it wasn't hard to see why. Right away he ran into two former big leaguers from Australia, David Nilsson and Graeme Lloyd, who played for Selig's Milwaukee Brewers for years.
Naturally, it also didn't take long for the Commissioner to be asked about MLB's next international foray. Selig said the location hasn't yet been decided, but that the league will venture beyond American borders sooner than later, and it will try to do it often.
"We're working on several things," Selig said. "I certainly have talked about this before. I want to play some regular-season games in Europe. But we're going to examine all possibilities. The nice part of all of this is we're now getting overtures, really good ones, from all over the world. And that's really good."
Selig also said he felt strongly about the notion that games on foreign soil aimed at strengthening the global brand of the sport should count in the standings.
"If you want to develop interest and you want to really make an impact, the games have to mean something," Selig said. "[It wouldn't be as effective] if you came just to play a couple exhibition games, and half the team comes and half the team doesn't.
"Here we are, we're starting with Clayton Kershaw going on the mound tonight. That's drama. And if you want to really do things and really gauge things, this is great. So it's worked out that way."
Selig has announced that the 2014 season will be his final one as Commissioner, so he was asked about what he has been most proud of.
"I guess I've got all this year to think about those things," he said. "I'm proud of where the sport is. I'm proud of its growth. Its growth has been stunning since 1992. I'm proud of the internal economic reformation of the game, all the marketing, all the things that didn't exist in 1992.
"I always say I'm going to let historians judge that, because I am a history buff, and that's the way it should be."
Opening Series 2014 will soon be in those history books, not only as a success for MLB and for Australia, but as the first big league games to be played in this country since the White Sox and Giants played a January exhibition in 1914.
That history was not lost on Selig, either.
When asked by an Aussie journalist how long it might take for a return to Oz, Selig smiled.
"It won't be another 100 years, I can assure you of that," Selig said. "But yes, I'm very confident that we'll come back. Absolutely."