LONDON (AP) — High cheese comes to the land of high tea on Saturday.
When Boston’s Rick Porcello throws the first pitch to the New York Yankees at Olympic Stadium, the national pastime of the onetime colony will try to plant itself in the mother country.
After looking at the cozy distance — 385 feet to center with a 16-foot wall — Yankees and Red Sox batters hope to run up some cricket-like scoring totals, perhaps even shattering the famous triangular light banks.
“Hopefully, we’ll poke a couple out,” Yankees slugger Aaron Judge said Friday, smiling after batting practice on a sunny afternoon. “It flies pretty well. It got good carry.”
The teams arrived Thursday on overnight flights after playing day games. Judge, who is 6-foot-7, ambled around London largely unrecognized.
“I was actually walking near the London Eye yesterday and I ran into a couple people that had the Yankee hat on,” Judge said. “They had no idea who I was or anything. I said this is all right. ‘I’m Aaron, great to meet you.'”
About 1,500 invited fans attended batting practice, and there were signs baseball had entered soccer country. Some Red Sox supporters improvised on a soccer chant to honor a Boston broadcaster, repeating “One Jerry Remy! There’s only one Jerry Remy!” to the tune of “Guantanamera.”
Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling was in the clubhouse of the Yankees, who partnered with City’s parent company to own the New York City team in Major League Soccer. Players in both locker rooms had souvenir jerseys in the claret and blue of West Ham, the soccer team that calls the stadium home. And infielder Gio Urshela dribbled a soccer ball in left field.
While both teams will wear white home jerseys, they clearly are being treated as visitors getting the royal treatment — Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and sixth in line to the throne, is scheduled to accompany Invictus Games athletes to the mound for the ceremonial first pitch.
Yet trappings of home abounded.
Clubhouses were built over the Olympic warmup track under the stands to emulate the spacious surroundings major leaguers typically enjoy. Movie director Spike Lee walked around in foul territory and the grounds crew performed to the Village People’s “YMCA,” as they are wont to do in the Bronx. Delaware North, the stadium food contractor, brought over George Raub, a 39-year-old from Georgia, to teach staff how to hawk food in the stands.
“It’s all about showmanship and bringing them outside of their shell,” he said. “Joked a little bit: If they’ve ever wanted to be a West End actor here in London, this is their chance to really showcase their skills.”
Players tested the artificial turf — a first for a Yankees-Red Sox game. While the dimensions resemble the cookie-cutter ballparks of the 1960s and ’70s, there is a large expanse of foul territory, like the Oakland Coliseum, making backing up bases paramount.
“There’s so much more space and so many more places for the ball to go,” Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner said.
The triangular light banks leave unusual shadows. The roof, built to protect soccer fans from rain, overhangs the plate. That necessitated a ground rule that fouls pinging the roof are dead balls. Left to enforce it is the umpiring crew of Ed Hickox (plate Saturday), Carlos Torres (first), Dana DeMuth (second) and Angel Hernandez (third).
Boston arrived after a charter flight on the Crystal Boeing 777-200 , configured to seat 88 people in lie-flat seats and with a dining area resembling a hotel.
“The nicest plane I’ll get to fly on,” Red Sox pitcher David Price said.
Unfortunately for Boston, the bus ride from Gatwick Airport took two hours in rush hour traffic and delayed arrival at the team hotel until about 10 a.m.
Sightseeing was popular. Boston manager Alex Cora and Yankees counterpart Aaron Boone went to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard, and Cora visited Kensington Palace. A gala was scheduled for the Tower of London.
Yankees reliever Chad Green, likely to start Sunday, toured the Churchill War Rooms under the streets of Westminster. Boston outfielder Mookie Betts played golf and ate with his family at Borough Market, while Porcello and Red Sox teammate Brandon Workman went to Camden Market, Shoreditch and Piccadilly Circus.
New York starter Masahiro Tanaka was not interested in any tourist diversions.
“It’s strictly a business trip for me,” he said through a translator.
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