'Baseball baby!': London's somewhat awkward introduction to America's Pastime

Rob Bradford
June 28, 2019 - 4:56 am

LONDON -- Taz was a guy who just wanted to shoot some YouTube videos for his fitness video series. As he pointed out, London doesn't really get a whole lot of weather days like Thursday's glorious sunshine delivered so it seemed important to take advantage of the opportunity.

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The 30-something bobbed and weaved around the area just a few feet from Tower Bridge, standing out if only because of the very different kind of hat he wore -- that of the Detroit Tigers."I don't know anything about the team, I just liked the hat," Taz explained.

Then, surfacing in the middle of a sea of lounging lunch-breakers, appeared an odd image. A tall, fit man started throwing a ball back and forth with a 26-year-old from Manchester, N.H. named Billy Mullaney. Taz had a feeling he should be filming this, but he wasn't actually sure why.

"I don't know who that is," he said, "but I feel like that should be someone."

It was. As Taz confirmed via a Google search it was Jennifer Lopez's fiance, Alex Rodriguez.

Taz wasn't alone in his confusion. If it wasn't for a growing group of tourists few would have paid any mind to the strapping man in a black jacket and sweatpants. In fact, before the game of catch Rodriguez could be found standing in the middle of a mass of sunbathers swinging a cricket bat without anyone batting an eye.

London, let us introduce you to the great game of baseball.

The Red Sox are playing the Yankees Saturday and Sunday at London Stadium. It is an event three years in the making, and one that Major League Baseball hopes will get its hooks into the European sports community. The good news for the organizers are that the games are sold out, with a reported 70 percent of the tickets going to folks from England. The bad? Well, let's just say it might not ultimately be love at first sight.

"I only knew about it because they were handing out Cracker Jacks over there."

"Don't you mean rounders?"

"Sorry, I don't watch baseball."

"Baseball baby!" (Note: That was the exclamation of a young man clearly a few pints deep.)

The very unscientific poll that was taken while walking along the heavily-populated area between the London Bridge and Tower Bridge revealed a consistent theme. Baseball isn't going to be stripping the attention away from cricket any time soon.

The timing of baseball's get-together with its new European friends clearly isn't coming at a perfect time. That much was evident while coming across a World Cup of Cricket outdoor viewing event at a place along the river called "The Scoop." Hundreds of folks were glued to a big screen showing a cricket match that was two countries that weren't even theirs. When asked about the baseball games ... well, they would rather you not take their attention away from the chucker.

For the locals, this is a novelty. It is appealing to a very small group of baseball followers in this country while offering one of the best mid-summer opportunity for Red Sox and Yankees fans to take a road trip that isn't Camden Yards. That's fine. For now, it is what it is.

The players get a respite from their regular season monotony (along with a cool $60,000 each), with a full day of exploring London with their friends and family. Baseball maybe plants a seed into the psyche of young sports fans, along the lines of what the NFL did here years ago. And, who knows, by the time the Cardinals and Cubs come back next year the level of apathy from the locals is appreciably thinned out.

It might not be love at first sight, but perhaps it can be like at third glance. That's good enough for now. 

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