Wednesday, 5 July 2017

The Battleground: Baseball in Hyde Park

So I got to celebrate the 4th of July with the first ever Major League Baseball event held in London. It happened to be a gorgeously warm and sunny evening at BST Hyde Park, the summer-long festival that includes concerts, open-air movies and perhaps the best array of street food and drink I've ever seen. The MLB Battlegrounds took over the main stage for a homerun shootout between the Boston Red Sox and the L.A. Dodgers. Being a native of Los Angeles, there really was no question who I would be cheering for.

The event is somewhat contrived, as the teams aren't actually represented here: these batters are a collection of players wearing the jerseys, including on each team a retired MLB all-star, a British cricketer, a female softball pro and two past or present baseball players. They smack away pitches trying to hit as many homeruns as possible, with added targets for extra points. At the end of round one, the Dodgers were in the lead, and then it became an individual competition, with the Red Sox's Carlos Peña (above) and the Dodgers' Federico Celli (right) facing off for the title. Celli's final 31-point round was simply mind-boggling, claiming the crown.

  • Dodgers: all-star Cliff Floyd (captain), former baseball pro Shawn Green, Italian-born baseball pro Federico Celli, softball pro Karla Claudio and England cricketer Alex Hales.
  • Red Sox: all-star Carlos Peña (captain), former baseball pro Gary Davidson, German-born baseball pro Julsan Kamara, softball pro Taylor Hoagland and England cricketer Jos Buttler.

Random touches abound for this kind of event (a live DJ! a dance battle! a highlights reel!), and it all features that general rah-rah American sporting atmosphere. But it was nice to see Londoners turn out by the thousands (20,000 to be exact) to scream their support, catch fly balls and fight over t-shirts fired from airguns. Having a media pass that allowed me to watch from right on the stage helped make it even more fun! My Instagram posts are below...

A post shared by Rich Jack Cline (@ukcline) on
A post shared by Rich Jack Cline (@ukcline) on
A post shared by Rich Jack Cline (@ukcline) on

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