Yankees and A-Rod a major drawcard

BASEBALL: It took Major League Baseball's Australian director Tom Nicholson 15 years to secure last month's historic, and highly-successful opening games of the 2014 season for Sydney.

The next series is unlikely to take so long.

Reports emerged on the weekend the world-famous New York Yankees could take on the Oakland Athletics in a double-header in Sydney to open the 2018 MLB season, but Nicholson was giving little away yesterday.

About to board a plane for the US, which he insisted was for a break to see his family, Nicholson told APN he was hopeful last month's games between the LA Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks were just the start of things to come.

"I can't put a timeframe on when we might see a return, but we've got a five-year plan in place," he said.

"The MLB has an initiative to develop the game worldwide - there are some clubs that aren't as receptive to this as we'd like them to be, but there are plenty which are."

The Yankees, with 27 World Series titles to their credit, would be an enormous drawcard Down Under.

Their roster boasts the likes of Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and the controversial Alex Rodriguez.

And the As are also popular in Australia. Former Sydneysider Grant Balfour was on Oakland's roster last season when he became just the second Australian baseballer to feature in the MLB's All-Star series.

A spokesman for the As said he was unaware of any negotiations to have his club play the Yankees in Australia in 2018, but added, "it certainly sounds interesting".

Nicholson revealed Australia had been pipped at the post in its bid to host the 2008 MLB opening series between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland, which ultimately went to baseball-crazy Tokyo.

"Melbourne came really close to hosting that series, but we just didn't have the right things in place at that time," he said.

"What impressed (MLB officials) about Sydney was the history - 100 years since the Chicago White Sox played the New York Giants there in an exhibition game, gave the series a magic touch."

Meanwhile, the Australian Baseball League's manager of baseball operations and facility development, Dan Amodio, said the momentum garnered by last month's opening series at the SCG would hopefully lead to the construction of top-class venues for the sport across the country.

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