St Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt believes Major League Baseball’s return to the UK next summer could boast strong similarities to a Premier League derby.
Eight years ago the 2022 National League MVP travelled to London with his wife with one item on his bucket list – see a top-flight football match, and they went to watch Chelsea host Arsenal.
In June, his crimson-capped side will take on historic National League nemeses the Chicago Cubs at London Stadium in a two-game series.
Asked how the atmosphere at Stamford Bridge compared to Cubs-Cardinals clashes, Goldschmidt said: “It was very similar.
“Walking into the stadium, having the crowd outside and all that energy and atmosphere, and all the celebration.
“Chelsea won that match I believe, so the fans were excited. Everything was just all about the game that day, and that’s how it is both in Chicago and St Louis. I remember one of the big differences was all the away fans sit together. You can’t just buy tickets wherever you want. I thought that was one of the interesting things. I didn’t know about that. It’s something I remember.”
The United States’ vastness might be one reason its big leagues have never felt the need to adopt UK-style away ends. Chicago and St Louis, however, are a relative-to-America mere four-and-a-half-hour drive from each other, sparking a rivalry that has lasted nearly 150 years.
So while the teams for next summer’s London Series, set for June 24-25, may have less international brand recognition than the Yankees and Red Sox, who contested the first London Series in 2019, the battle promises to be no less heated.
Goldschmidt said: “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment for us to go over and play where baseball isn’t usually played, in a football stadium and just everything is different.”
The infielder has followed USA’s World Cup campaign, admitting he recently told his son that, with the Americans now knocked out, he is backing England.
He agreed the rising interest in football Stateside could signal hope for America’s national pastime to make inroads across the pond, spurred on by events like the London Series, also set for revivals in 2024 and 2026.
Some might say 2023 is the biggest year for British baseball yet. Beyond MLB’s return, GB’s men are set to play in their first-ever World Baseball Classic (WBC) – the sport’s answer to the World Cup – with their group stage beginning in Miami in March.
GB, who qualified with a dramatic ninth-inning comeback in September and will be the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, are drawn in a tough group including a USA side set to feature 17-time MLB All-Star Goldschmidt.
They will most likely have a shiny new weapon in the form of Bahamas-born Miami Marlins second-baseman Jazz Chisholm, who enthusiastically declared his intent to represent GB at the WBC almost immediately after the final out of the deciding qualifier.
The impact of British youngsters having one of their own to look up to, agreed Goldschmidt, could be as important as MLB games in the long-term growth of baseball in the UK.
He added: “I’ve loved baseball since I was a kid. To have a country like Great Britain, for the game to be spreading, I think it’s great.
“[Chisholm playing], that’s what’s going to draw the fans in. I remember being a little kid and watching my favourite athletes. You want to be like your favourite player. The more great players we can get to participate for different countries, it’s only going to help the sport in those countries and all around the world.”
:: St Louis Cardinals will play Chicago Cubs in the MLB World Tour: London Series 2023 on June 24 – 25 at London Stadium. Tickets go on sale 10am on December 6 2022 at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/mlb
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