One of the world’s most iconic cricket grounds will on Friday begin its 20-day transformation into a baseball field fit for Major League Baseball’s season opener between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Sydney Cricket Ground will receive one of the biggest makeovers in its long history, with ground staff expected to work around the clock to ensure the venue is up to standard for the first match of the tour on March 20.
There is plenty of work that has and still needs to go into the overhaul – including locker room makeovers, temporary seating and surface replacement – but perhaps the biggest challenge has been sourcing the clay that makes up the pitcher’s mound and infield.
Six months of experimentation went into trying to mix a blend of clay and synthetic material that complies with MLB standards.
However the best efforts of three Australian specialists couldn’t produce the right blend, forcing tour promoters Moore Sports to import clay from the United States.
“The issue with it is that we tried to mix the materials locally here first,” Moore Sports chief executive Jason Moore said.
“Because of the geology of Australia, we just couldn’t come up with the same material that was up to MLB standard. We weren’t able to locally mix the materials despite the efforts of three technicians that are experts in these sorts of materials. For the pure fact of the geology of the Australian soil and Australian rock is different to that in the northern hemisphere, we just couldn’t do it.
“Hence why we had to bring it in from the States and follow special quarantine guidelines. We spent six months trying to do it here with at least 10 trials with the three different specialists in the field. We were sourcing materials from all over because it’s a mixture of many different elements, which the MLB keep to themselves. It’s not public knowledge, it’s like the colonel’s herbs and spices.”
In order to adhere to Australia’s strict quarantine guidelines, the clay – which was sourced from San Diego – had to be extracted from five metres below the surface.
It was an assignment that finally came to an end when more the clay cleared customs and quarantine to arrive at the SCG.
“It was sourced under quarantine guidelines from San Diego,” Moore said.
“Because of the risk of contamination, we had to dig five metres below the surface to extract the clay. That’s only one component of what’s in the actual material. Part of it is synthetic material. It was shipped over in 17 containers in 251 one tonne bags.”
Almost 300 tonnes of locally-sourced, crushed triple-washed terracotta will be used to make up the warning track, with around 3560 square metres of the SCG surface to be removed to install the infield clay and warning track.
After the last game of the tour between the Diamondbacks and Dodgers on March 23, 5000 square metres of grass that has been growing at a Hawkesbury turf farm for the past 12 months will be installed to ensure the ground is ready for the Sydney Swans’ first AFL game at the ground on April 13.
A limited number of tickets are still available for the Diamondbacks and Dodgers matches on March 22 and 23. Team Australia play the Dodgers on March 20 and the Diamondbacks on March 21.