As expected, MLB on Tuesday announced that the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will play a pair of games in London during the 2019 season. Now let's break it down FAQ style ...
When will the games be played?
The two-game set is scheduled for June 29 and 30, 2019. The Red Sox will be the home team for both contests.
Where will the games be played?
The series is set for London Stadium, which is located about six miles east of central London. London Stadium was initially constructed to serve as a main venue for the 2012 Summer Olympics. After the Olympiad, it was gradually reconstructed to serve as a multipurpose facility, and it reopened as such in 2016. Here's a look at that process (please read "process" with a long o sound for added verisimilitude) ...
The stadium will of course be reconfigured for baseball in time for the London Series, and the reconfigurations will allow a seating capacity of 55,000. The current field size is 222 feet by 345 feet. That space can be maximized via diamond orientation, and perhaps there's room to expand the playing surface on a temporary basis.
Here's the stadium set up for a 2017 track and field event ...
These days, London Stadium is primarily known as the home of West Ham United F.C. of the Premier League.
MLB, particularly since Rob Manfred became commissioner, is dedicated to expanding the sport's international footprint. For a while, the league has hosted periodic series in Mexico, Japan, and Australia. Those locales, however, have a stronger baseball foundation, at least in terms of enthusiasm for the game, than does Europe. This first foray into Europe in that sense means breaking new ground.
Oh, and during Tuesday's announcement Manfred joked that London got the nod in part because Mayor Sadiq Kahn is the only European mayor who has experience throwing out a ceremonial first pitch. While in New York late in the 2016 season, Khan heaved the first pitch before a Mets game (note the deception in the delivery) ...
Why the Yankees and Red Sox?
If you're going to attempt to make those inroads in a market that may not be amenable to baseball, then you'd best put forth your two most recognizable brands. Here's one way of thinking about it ...
The Yankees are tracked in yellow, the Red Sox in red, and West Ham in blue. That's globally, though. Here's how things shake out if we narrow the focus to the U.K. ...
Again, this isn't a natural market for baseball, which is precisely why MLB is giving this a go and doing so with the game's signature rivalry. There's no doubt some baseball apathy to overcome, but London Stadium will still be stuffed to the gills for this.
Also, the Yankees and Red Sox figure to be very good in 2019. Of the current stars presently on each roster, just Craig Kimbrel and CC Sabathia are unfettered free agents at season's end. As well, there's a reasonable chance that Bryce Harper or Manny Machado is playing for one of these teams in 2019.
But what about that London weather?
London gets a good bit of rain, of course, and postponements and delays have been too much with us thus far in 2019. Late June and early July, though, are relatively dry as summer months in England go. London this time of year sees about 1.65 inches of rainfall per month. That's roughly half of what Boston sees at that time. London also sees a bit less than 14 days of precipitation per month around the time that the Yanks and Sox will play. As for temps, expects fahrenheit highs in the low 70s and lows in the high 50s.
What about the schedule?
Sticking an overseas series pretty much in the middle of the regular-season schedule is new, and no doubt some logistical challenges will flow from that decision. The good news is that the last Collective Bargaining Agreement provided for more off days within the MLB calendar, so this series will likely have scheduled off days before and after, which should allow plenty enough time to overcome any jet lag or the like. Also, the flight time from New York/Boston to London is only one hour more than the flight time from New York/Boston to Los Angeles. Put both teams at home before and after the London Series, and there's nothing too onerous about this.
In the name of all that is holy, would you please share some carefully crafted pro forma public statements from various stakeholders?
If you insist. Here's Manfred:
"Major League Baseball is excited to be bringing one of the most storied rivalries in sports to the passionate fans of London. In our ongoing efforts to grow baseball, there is nothing as impactful as bringing live games and our talented players to fans. This is our most significant endeavor ever in Europe and we look forward to showcasing Major League Baseball in one of the world's great cities."
Here's MLBPA head Tony Clark:
"Some of the most talented and dynamic players in the world will be playing in these games. They are excited about the chance to meet new fans, and showcase the game they love. They are aware they'll be a part of history, but they also know these games count. So fans can expect intense competition during what will surely be a great few days in London."
Here's Red Sox principal owner John Henry:
"For several years the Red Sox and Yankees have discussed playing in London as the first-ever Major League Baseball regular season game in Europe. It's also the first time the Red Sox and Yankees have played one another outside of New York or Boston. There were significant challenges that had to be overcome. We could not be happier that Commissioner Manfred has been able to make this a reality. This series will surely be the most significant international event to date for Major League ball. I can't wait to hear someone shout 'play ball' at London Stadium."
Here's Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner:
"To have the opportunity to participate in this historic baseball endeavor and showcase our game in London is something our entire organization is thrilled to be a part of. Bringing these storied teams together for British fans — who have such a profound appreciation for sports at the highest level — only adds to the unique allure of one of the world's greatest sporting rivalries. We expect an exciting and intense pair of games and appreciate the significance of representing our sport in such a meaningful way."
Here's Graham Gilmore, CEO of London Stadium:
"As a venue, we are immensely proud to be hosting MLB's London Series at London Stadium in 2019. London Stadium has a track record of successfully delivering major global events, moving from Premier League Football and both international and domestic showpiece rugby fixtures to hosting some of the biggest names in music. We look forward to welcoming MLB, teams and fans to London Stadium for the first year of what we hope to be a fruitful, long term partnership."
Note that Mr. Gilmore in essence referred to himself as a venue. Respect.
Is there already a hype video for this thing?
Yeah, one sec ...
MLB presents the #LondonSeries: @RedSox v @Yankees at London Stadium on June 29th and 30th 2019. Register for pre-sale ticket access at https://t.co/DEPvWVOfJz.— MLB London (@mlb_uk) May 8, 2018
Stay up to date by following us at: https://t.co/XGjQK282Ulhttps://t.co/pF5ddGjq28pic.twitter.com/RK4xPIWeqy
Did Mayor Khan sort of troll New York and Boston during his comments?
No, not really, but no one can stop us from pretending he did ...
"I am absolutely delighted that we have secured this historic agreement for Major League Baseball to come to London in 2019 and 2020. All the hard work has paid off. There is no better way to start the London Series and the first Major League Baseball fixture in Europe than a clash between two heavyweights of international sport – the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. This is a major coup demonstrating, once again, that London is the sporting capital of the world and I am excited about a new partnership with MLB and the long term future of this sport in our great city."
Emphasis mine, yours, ours. Those in the lucrative business of offense-seeking will note that Mayor Kahn baldly disrespected the New England Patriots and or Derek Jeter by calling London the sporting capital of the world.
Is this a one-time thing?
Nope. London will play host to MLB again in 2020. No doubt, this is just the start of the league's efforts to penetrate new markets.
Mark your calendars using the metric system!