Opening Day MLB 2014: 5 Sports They'd Prefer to Watch in Sydney

Australia Baseball Dodgers Diamondbacks for Opening Day MLB 2014
Associated Press
Opening Day MLB 2014 is Saturday. So play ball! And in the league's unrelenting effort to spread the hardball gospel internationally, the 2014 opener--pitting the L.A. Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks--will be played in Sydney, Australia. Goodbye, peanuts and Crackerjack. G'day, vegemite.

In a spring training interview, Dodgers' ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw sounded lukewarm about dueling Down Under. "I'd love to go there on vacation. I don't really want to go pitch there," Kershaw said. And truth be told, would any rugby-crazed Aussie miss him if he stayed home counting his millions? For your next trip to Oz, here's a primer on five sports Australians do care about, passionately.

5. Thoroughbred Horse Racing

It comes as no surprise to satellite wagering junkies that horse racing is huge here. In fact, it's the country's third most popular spectator sport with nearly 2 million annual attendees. Victoria is a hotbed of equine action and also hosts Australia's biggest race, the Melbourne Cup, held in November and dubbed "the race that stops a nation." Take that, Kentucky Derby.

4. Cricket

The MLB opener will happen on hallowed Aussie turf: the Sydney Cricket Ground. It's a natural fit for baseball, a sport laced with cricket DNA. Both games are played in innings, and the teams are made up of pitchers ("bowlers" in cricket) and batters (called "batsmen"). Sure, batsmen don't routinely blast 440-foot home runs ("sixes" are the cricket equivalent), but all baseball geeks owe cricket props for partially grandfathering America's national pastime. In addition to the Sydney Cricket Ground, good venues to catch some action include the Adelaide Oval and Melbourne Cricket Ground.

3 and 2. Rugby Union and Rugby League

Ask an Aussie sports nut to explain the differences between these two types of full-contact rugby and you're in for a lengthy conversation that's summed up in this short video. Learn the basic rules of both, and go see a match; Sydney is home to several Rugby League stadiums. On the Rugby Union side, be aware when the national team "Wallabies" clash with their rival New Zealand "All Blacks," rooting for the hated Kiwis will draw major stink eye, and sometimes worse. You've been warned.

1. Australian rules football

What the NFL is to the United States, Aussie rules football is to legions of maniacal footy fans who follow the Australian Football League (AFL). This sport is rugby on meth, with roving field goal-type kicks and brutal tackling. Yes, the players wear shorts and the hits can't compare with a savage NFL smack down (pre concussion-paranoia era), but this sport entertains. So scarf a meat pie, guzzle a Victoria Bitter and get crazy, mate.

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