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MLB to be played at the London Stadium in June 2019

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It has been announced that in June 2019 the Boston Red Sox will play two games against the New York Yankees, the first Major League baseball contest to be hosted in Europe. 

 

In a press conference, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the two giants from the MLB will compete in a two match regular season series. 

This deal with the London Stadium is said to be a long term agreement, with the MLB stating that they hope to create “a long term footprint in the city of London”

Red Sox and Liverpool Football Club Principle Owner John Henry also spoke in the conference admitting that he couldn’t wait “to hear someone shout 'play ball' at London Stadium.”

Since his election, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has set out to make London the sporting capital of the world, and the introduction of baseball to the city will act as a major stepping stone to achieving this. 

“Since I became Mayor, I have been determined to bring baseball to our city and I am really pleased we have been able to reach what is an historic agreement.” Khan said.

Baseball isn’t the only American sport that has arrived on our shores in recent years, with American Football becoming increasingly popular as a result of the NFL’s deal with Wembley Stadium. 

From 2013 to 2016, the Jacksonville Jags played one of their 8 home games at Wembley Stadium, a deal inspiring the MLB to move into Europe. 

Due to the success of the Wembley contests, the NFL announced another deal that will see two of the Jags’ home games played at Tottenham Hotspurs new stadium in North London. 

The new stadium features a retractable pitch that will be specifically used for American Football. This move shows the commitment the NFL for a long term deal with London, and this is what baseball is looking to emulate. 

As a football ground the London Stadium holds a maximum of 66,000 spectators when West Ham United play their home games but the capacity for the two game baseball series will be 55,000 each day. 

Demand for tickets is extremely high with Red Sox owner John Henry suggesting that it may be difficult for locals to get tickets “due to the amount of Americans travelling over to watch”. 

If you want to register for pre-sale tickets then visit this website https://www.mlb.com/london-series to sign up. 

 

The Rivalry

Quoted as the ‘greatest rivalry in sport’ by the MLB Network, the matchup between the Red Sox and Yankees certainly has importance. The teams have competed for over 100 seasons in their division, the American League East, playing over 2000 games. The games are broadcast nationwide in the USA, and receive a large amount of media coverage due to the overwhelming support for both teams.

The rivalry emerged from a trade of arguably the best player to grace baseball, Babe Ruth. In 1919 the Red Sox traded the hitter to the New York Yankees, which began a stretch of 26 World Series Championships in 80 years for the Yankees. In the same period the Red Sox failed to win a single championship. This stretch became known as the ‘Bambino Curse’. 

Throughout the years there has been fiery matchups between the storied rivals, most recently in the three game series hosted at Red Sox stadium Fenway Park in April. In a Yankees 10-7 victory, the benches cleared as a result of a ball thrown intentionally to hit a New York player whilst batting. 

In baseball, hitters are sometimes intentionally hit due to grievances from previous instances in the game. In this particular game, the Red Sox felt there was a dangerous slide from a Yankees player, which caused them to pitch the ball at the batter. 

Yankees batter Tyler Austin took offence to being hit by a pitch, slammed his bat down and charged for the Boston pitcher Joe Kelly. The benches from both teams cleared, punches were thrown and the two culprits Austin and Kelly were ejected from the game and given week-long bans. 

Benches clearing must not be expected at the London Stadium in June 2019, however this is just one example of why the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry is so exciting. 

John Henry spoke of this intense rivalry in the press conference. 

“This derby arouses the same passion that you see in Merseyside Derby’s, Manchester Derby’s and London Derby’s.” 

The series comes at the right time too, with the race for the American League division between the two tighter than ever. Both teams are always World Series contenders but this year both teams have added superstars in Giancarlo Stanton and J.D Martinez respectively, making the rivalry tastier than ever.  

Baseball is finally coming, and this London Stadium experiment is sure to just be the start of Major League Baseball’s arrival in Britain and indeed Europe as a whole.

Image rights - both images - Wikimedia Commons

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