Baseball fans enjoy homers, a bit of heckling in London park

Los Angeles Dodgers player Federico Celli hits the ball during an event in Hyde Park in London Tuesday. A bit of American sports culture was on display in London’s Hyde Park on Tuesday, the US Independence Day. The exhibition featured several former major leaguers playing a Home Run Derby in one of London’s best-known open spaces. (AP)
Updated 05 July 2017
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Baseball fans enjoy homers, a bit of heckling in London park

LONDON: A vivid piece of American sports culture was displayed in London’s Hyde Park as baseball came to town on July 4, the US Independence Day.
The exhibition Tuesday featured several former major leaguers playing a Home Run Derby in one of London’s best-known open spaces.
It is part of Major League Baseball’s plan to showcase the game to build interest in Britain and Europe, where soccer is the overwhelmingly favorite sport.
The move comes during the summer hiatus in England’s Premier League.
Part of Hyde Park was transformed into a baseball field on a warm summer evening as fans entered the batting cage to try out their swings — one of the best hitters was a woman wearing a Red Sox uniform.
There were a few English touches. But Americana was in vogue, with some wearing outfits based on the stars and stripes to mark Independence Day.
The event drew several thousand enthusiastic fans and provided a needed boost for British baseball teams, who rubbed shoulders with former major leaguers, including Carlos Pena and Cliff Floyd.
“This event is a big start because if this goes well baseball’s popularity is only going to build and build,” said 20-year-old Josh Heues, who traveled 90 minutes to get here with several teammates from the Northampton-based Centurions.
The home run competitors were divided into Red Sox and Dodgers, each wearing uniforms from those major league clubs. Some fans in New York Yankees hats were politely heckled by Red Sox fans.
Charlie Hill, the managing director of Major League Baseball for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says it is possible that some regular-season games will be played in London as soon as the 2019 season.
“The teams are enthusiastic,” he said. “That is the target and it’s becoming the expectation.”
If MLB league games are played in London in two years, baseball will still be way behind the National Football League and the National Basketball Association, which have played official games in Britain for decades.
Hill said the exhibition was a Home Run Derby, similar to the one that precedes the league’s All-Star Game, an easy-to-understand demonstration of hitting prowess.
One concern is that baseball’s somewhat arcane rules might make the game seem incomprehensible to Britons — much as Americans can be slow to grasp the finer points of cricket.
“We don’t want to play games here from a cold start,” Hill said.
The former major leaguers were joined by several prominent British cricket players who tried their hand at knocking baseballs out of the park. They showed impressive skill with a baseball bat.
John Boyd, who heads Baseball Softball UK, said there is already strong interest in the game. He says there is an estimated 1.5 million baseball fans in Britain, partly because it has become so much easier to watch live games.
“Now I can watch it at the pub,” Boyd said. “I have an app that lets me watch it in real time. The globalization of tech has made it a lot easier to follow other countries’ national pastimes.”


Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori get ready to serve up the action in Dubai championship

Updated 23 February 2019
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Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori get ready to serve up the action in Dubai championship

DUBAI: With the women’s tournament now over for another year, it is the turn of the men to wow the crowds in Dubai, with the men’s ATP event getting underway in the emirate this weekend.
The tournament has traditionally attracted some of the biggest names in the sport, with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all having played in the past.
The 2019 entry list is no different, with Roger Federer, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas all on show this week.
World No. 6 and top-seeded Nishikori will get his tournament up and running against Frenchman Benoit Paire, while second seed Roger Federer — seven-time champion in Dubai who last won the title in 2015 — will face German Philipp Kohlschreiber.
Croatian Marin Clilc has arguably the toughest opening match against the recent Rotterdam Open winner Gael Monfils.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, who shocked Federer at the Australian Open, begins his campaign against the Australian Matt Eden.
Other notable first round ties see Tomas Berdych up against Aljaz Bedene and last year’s champion Roberto Bautista Agut playing India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan.
Federer, apart from chasing an eighth title in what is likely to be his Swanson in Dubai, will also be hoping for victory next weekend to claim his 100th title on the ATP tour.
Nishikori, however, will be out to stop the Swiss ace and claim the $565,000 winner’s prize and his second title of the year having won the Brisbane International last month.