Following MLB from Down Under

Could you imagine watching a World Series game at 11 a.m.? (via Arturo Pardavila III)

Few phrases excite baseball fans more than, “World Series Game Seven.” Everything is on the line, and there is no tomorrow. Every pitcher is available to throw, the bench may be emptied of pinch-hitters and defensive replacements, and all that matters is who emerges victorious at the end.

Of course, the clamor for a long time now has been the inability of younger (and even older) fans — particularly those on the East Coast — to stay awake long enough to watch the conclusion of games. After three hours and 51 minutes, Game Seven ended at 11:50 p.m. Eastern Time. No doubt countless fans had given up by then and called it a night, satisfied to learn of the outcome when they woke up the next morning.

It’s an issue for millions of fans from Maine to Florida, Washington, D.C. to White Pine, Mich. (the westernmost town in the Eastern Time Zone). But what about fans outside the U.S., particularly those far from American shores?

I recently moved to Sydney, Australia, just a few days before the postseason began, and following the baseball action has been somewhat confusing and difficult. Typical 8 p.m. ET games would begin at 10:00 a.m. local time — the next day. And when Australian Daylight Saving Time occurred the first weekend of October, those starts shifted to 11:00 a.m.

(Remember, the seasons differ by six months, so it’s spring down here, meaning it was time for the clocks to “spring forward.” Fortunately, the season ended just before U.S. Daylight Saving Time started the first weekend of November, resulting in the current 16-hour gap.)

So, how does one follow the action? It’s not exactly going to work to tell the new boss I need a four-hour lunch throughout the second half of October. And of course, when there are multiple playoff games, starting as early as 1 p.m. ET, that’s a 3 a.m. first pitch for me, something I have no desire to wake up early to see.

Well, it means doing what many Americans do when they’re working — keep up online as well as you can. I checked the World Series scores every now and then when I didn’t have a meeting or wasn’t at lunch. And in its own way, it was exciting, taking a quick glance at from time to time.

Seeing the Astros had taken a 2-0 midgame lead, I thought, “Well, it looks like the home team is going to win one game — the one that matters most.” But then I checked in 45 minutes later, and the tide had turned, with the Nationals clawing back on top, 3-2. Then it was 4-2, and finally Washington’s 6-2 victory bringing the franchise its first World Series win. As a fan of a National League team, I was hoping for a Senior Circuit win, even if the Nats knocked out my Cardinals along the way.

And speaking of the Cardinals, there was a bit of an odd schedule quirk that worked to my advantage. My birthday is October 13, and every year when the postseason schedule is announced, I look to see if there will be a National League Championship Series game that day. The odds are pretty good there will be, but frequently that will be an off day for the NL. Sure enough, several weeks ago — when I was still living in the U.S. — I saw there was no NLCS match-up booked for my birthday. Oh, well. If St. Louis happened to get that far, I’d certainly be able to find other things to do that day.

However, with my move down under, the schedule changed. The Cardinals were playing the afternoon of October 12 in St. Louis, a 3 p.m. local time start that translated to a 7 a.m. beginning in Sydney. And to make things better, that was a Sunday morning, so work was not a concern. Now, the outcome of the game — aided by some questionable last-game decision making by Cardinals manager Mike Schildt for the second straight contest — was a different story, but at least I was able to follow the entire game live. If you’re going to have your birthday spoiled by your favorite team losing, you might as well have it happen in real time.

One benefit of the flipped seasons between the Northern and Southern hemispheres is that the Australian Baseball League starts play in late November, with the regular season running to the end of January. The local nine is the Sydney Blue Sox, and there may be a follow-up story after a trip to Blacktown International Sportspark to watch a game or two.

(As an aside, when I go to these games, the temperatures may be “similar” between Sydney and many parts of the U.S. It’s just that 25-30 F temperatures there will feel quite different from the 25-30 C temps here. That’s 85-94 F, by the way.)

A related concern is how I’m going to participate in my long-standing fantasy baseball league, with all the other owners based in the Cincinnati area. Previous moves have had me a couple hours away, sometimes in different areas of the U.S., and we’ve made it work. Thank you, technology! In those cases, it’s only been about making sure we have a reliable phone and/or internet connection.

Now it’s going to be about different logistics. If we start the draft at 9 a.m. Saturday morning in the Queen City, that’s going to be midnight for me. If I’m persuasive enough, maybe a 3 p.m. start will work for them (6 a.m. here) instead of me having to pull an all-nighter.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

The looming question is, how will I follow the 2020 major league baseball season? Most likely, it will be a lot more of what has happened so far. The results of U.S. afternoon starts will be available when I wake up, East Coast night game scores will update throughout the late morning and early afternoon, and West Coast night games will wrap up as my work day is winding down.

Until then, there’s cricket, rugby, Australian Rules Football, netball, and maybe a few other sports I haven’t heard of yet to familiarize myself with. My sports world certainly has been turned upside down.

Cheers, mates!

Greg has been a writer and editor for The Hardball Times since 2010. In his dreams, he's the second coming of Ozzie Smith. Please don't wake him up.
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4 years ago

Get yourself to Melbourne at some point during footy season. Coll v Rich (Mar 26 & Jul 10), Coll v Ess (Anzac Day, Apr 25) will each have roughly 90k people. for anyone with a love of sport, it’s definitely something you should take in at least once.

We usually aim for Saturday afternoon drafts. 8am sunday for our one aussie member, 1pm/4pm Sat in US, 10pm Sat night for our one european member.

Has anyone warned you about dropbears yet?

Yaramah Z
4 years ago

As an Aussie Baseball fan, I’ve had plenty of experience following online at work, or trying to have a long lunch break to follow the game (I’m lucky enough to work at Uni which has a bar to show some games). I really quite like it, makes work alot less boring over autumn and winter.

You have to watch a game of cricket live. I would recommend the New Years Test in Sydney , or if you want a shorter baseball style game, a Big Bash 20/20 cricket over the summer holidays. Only lasts 3 hrs! Enjoy!