Baseball is a change-up for Sydney Cricket Ground – Los Angeles Times

SYDNEY, Australia — From behind home plate, the architect pointed at the outfield wall in the distance and explained one particular challenge of building a baseball field without desecrating the sacred earth beneath it.

“We had to build all this fencing and not put one stake in the ground,” Scott Eggelton said.

Instead of stakes, Eggelton used 70 one-ton blocks of concrete to fortify the wall, ensuring it would be stable enough to absorb the impact of an outfielder crashing into it at full speed.

Eggelton saw Yasiel Puig last year on a business trip to Arizona and recognizes the Dodgers outfielder is a physical marvel. But if Puig and the wall collide, Eggelton has no doubt the wall will win.

“He’ll hurt himself,” Eggelton said. “I hope he doesn’t.”

The construction of the wall was one of several obstacles Eggelton overcame to prepare the Sydney Cricket Ground for Major League Baseball‘s season-opening, two-game series between the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks that starts Saturday.

Chief among the concerns was time. The 38,000-seat venue’s final cricket game of the season was played Feb. 26.

“We started building Feb. 27,” said Murray Cook, MLB’s field and stadium consultant.

Tom Parker said that in his 18 years as the SCG’s curator, he had never undertaken a project that required so much work in so little time.

“It was quite unbelievable,” he said.

Complicating matters, there is only one point at which construction trucks could enter the field. The logistics of when trucks delivered or removed certain material from the grounds had to be carefully coordinated, according to Mark Warwick of the construction company Evergreen Turf.

The architects and construction workers not only had to move quickly, they had to be careful not to disturb the historic venue’s elements.

Dating to the mid-19th century, the SCG is one of the world’s most revered cricket venues. The ashes of players, umpires and fans are spread on these grounds.

The facility doubles as a historical monument. The various seating sections are named after Australian cricket legends. There is even a statue of a popular heckler in one of the stands.

The stadium’s most famous features are down what will be the right-field line — the grandstands known as the Members Stand and the Lady Members Stand.

“It reminds me of Churchill Downs,” Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said.

Ultimately, the SCG’s history helped convince Parker, the curator, that the temporary renovations should be made.

The SCG has hosted tennis’ Davis Cup. The stadium first hosted an American baseball team in 1888, when the Chicago White Sox stopped on a worldwide tour. This year marked the 100th anniversary of a subsequent visit by the White Sox.

Still, Parker didn’t want the integrity of the SCG to be compromised — particularly the pitch.


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