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A.J. Ellis came back to Los Angeles, back to Wisconsin, back to barbs from Diamondbacks Coach Kirk Gibson, and he was a happy man.
He looked at his five days in Australia with Arizona left-hander Patrick Corbin to promote Major League Baseball opening its 2014 season with a pair of games between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in Sydney as an unexpected treat.
“To get that phone call from the Dodger staff to represent the team and the organization, it was such an honor for them to feel like I was worthy enough to be a face of the opening series,” Ellis said. “I jumped at it.
“Even more special, they offered to take my wife [Cindy] along as well, so it was also a great vacation and chance for us to get away and to thank her for all the stuff she’s been going through with three kids.”
Ellis arrived with team executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen and public relations director Joe Jareck. One of his best memories came early.
“For me one of the best parts was flying in,” Ellis said. “You know you’re getting close and you kind of break through the clouds right above Sydney. I’d never been there before and it was a really cloudy day, and all of a sudden the harbor opens up to you … and you see this beautiful harbor and city surrounding it and this huge bridge, and know you’re going to climb it later in the week, and you see the Sydney Opera house -- and anytime you see that opera house you know exactly what city they’re talking about -- and you look around and can’t wait to touch ground and explore. Everything looks amazing.”
One of his first duties was to have a news conference with Corbin at the Sydney Opera House. It was announced there that both teams would play one game against the Australia national team prior to their season opener.
“It was really a great experience, right there in the middle of this historic building and to be promoting a baseball game,” Rosen said.
They did a media tour and at night took a boat tour of the harbor, at one point pulling next to a Kings of Leon concert for a couple of songs. There was a day at Manly Beach to give youngsters some baseball tips, a trip to the zoo to see koala bears (which aren’t bears at all but a pouched mammal) and kangaroos, a two-hour climb up the steel-arched Sydney Harbour Bridge, and of course, a visit to the historic site where the baseball games will be played -- 126-year-old Sydney Cricket Ground.
“There’s going to be a ton of foul territory on both sides,” Ellis said. “It’s going to be kind of tight when you get down into the corners, but they’re saying it will measure 330 [feet] down the lines and 375 in the gap and 410 to dead center, so it’s going to play pretty traditional as far as a baseball stadium goes.”
The Sydney Cricket Ground is fairly oval in shape, creating the large foul territory in front of the temporary dugouts. Rosen said new clubhouses are being built that will be utilized later by cricket and rugby teams.
“It’s one of the most historic stadiums in the entire world,” Rosen said. “There is a part of the field -- the grandstands -- that’s from the original stadium. The clubhouse they use for cricket is still the same clubhouse they used, like, 120 years ago.”
Of course, when Ellis returned home he had Gibson’s unflattering comment waiting. Ellis had no interest in responding.
“I want to leave it and let it go,” Ellis said. “He said what he said. They’re making more … I don’t know what to say. I’m honored the Dodgers thought highly enough of me to let me represent what I think is definitely the best organization in the NL West and the best organization in baseball, in my opinion.”