For the first time ever in the regular season, Major League Baseball is going across the pond as the Red Sox will “host” the Yankees for a two-game series in London.
While the matchups between two of the top teams in baseball will carry the same weight as if they were to be played in the States, the sport’s greatest rivalry will have a few twists this weekend. Here’s a look at what to expect when the AL East foes face off in the UK:
Saturday, June 29, 1:10 p.m. ET
Masahiro Tanaka (5-5, 3.21 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (5-7, 4.52 ERA)
Sunday, June 30, 10 a.m. ET
TBD vs. Eduardo Rodriguez (8-4, 4.87 ERA)
Fans in London won’t get to see Boston’s best starters, but they will be treated to Tanaka, who's currently among the AL’s top 10 in ERA, in the series opener. Perhaps more appropriate, though, is that Aaron Boone has already said the Yankees will likely deploy an opener for Sunday’s game. It’s nothing new—New York has gone 7-0 with openers while Domingo German has been sidelined—but it's fitting that the sport’s newest trend will take center stage abroad.
London Stadium, originally known as Olympic Stadium, opened in 2012, just prior to that summer’s Olympics. The 80,000-person capacity was knocked down to 60,000 when West Ham United of the Premier League took over as the facility’s primary tenant.
Still, the track that was initially laid down for the Games’ athletic events remains, meaning Murray Cook, MLB senior field coordinator, and his team had to lay a playing surface on top of a protective covering to preserve the track and soccer pitch. Per Marly Rivera of ESPN, that meant shipping “340 tons of clay from Slippery Rock, Pa., and 50 tons of FieldTurf manufactured in Auchel, France.”
The good news for MLB is that they’ll be able to repurpose a majority of the field, fences, and foul poles—the latter of which will have to be weighted instead of anchored into the ground—for future games overseas. The bad news is that the games will be on an artificial surface, something only two MLB ballparks currently use.
As for the dimensions, they’ll be 330 feet (that’s just more than 100 meters, because you were wondering) down the lines. Centerfield will be 385 feet at its deepest point—which is shallower than any current park. To compensate, there will be a 16-foot wall out there to keep a few more balls in the yard.
The Red Sox are technically the “home” team in this series, meaning they’ll bat last and all that jazz, but did you really think the Yankees weren’t going to wear their iconic pinstripes? Aaron Judge and Co. will don their home unis in both games, while the Red Sox will go with their traditional home outfit on Saturday before wearing their red tops with white pants on Sunday.
And as with any special event, there will be a patch.
Presidents Race? Sausage Race? How about a Royals Race?
It won’t be quite that, but there will be a former king featured as four British "icons" run around the warning track at London Stadium. Henry VIII will go up against Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, and the Loch Ness Monster in a competition inspired by one of baseball’s most popular in-game bits.
“The Freeze” will also make his way from Atlanta to show off his speed to the international crowd, and as an ode to the two teams playing, both the YMCA and Sweet Caroline will be sung between half-innings.
As for concessions, there will be vendors in the stands—something not normally offered at British venues—selling common American eats like hot dogs and Cracker Jack. But there will be traditional British fare available as well (Pukka Pie, anyone?)
Commissioner Rob Manfred wanted to take the sport international, and he’s done that already. The league started its 2014 season in Sydney, Australia before opening this year in Tokyo. The league has also played games in Monterrey, Mexico each of the last two years.
The plan is to go back to London next summer for a two-game set between the Cubs and Cardinals at London Stadium, but two other European cities have reportedly “shown interest” in playing host to future MLB games. Perhaps the Twins and their German star Max Kepler could play in Munich or maybe the Mets—with Italians Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmo—could take to the field in Rome. First up in London, the rest of the world is next.