SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA -- Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis drove away from the near freezing temperatures in Wisconsin, battled a fierce thunderstorm in Chicago and landed safely in Los Angeles on Sunday night, before crossing the International Dateline and departing on the 14-hour flight to Sydney, Australia. Without any luggage.
"We left the bags in L.A., but wow did we bring the weather," said Ellis on a picturesque Tuesday afternoon overlooking Sydney Harbour moments after a news conference to promote Major League Baseball's two-game Opening Series on March 22-23, 2014, at the historic Sydney Cricket Ground. The event, attended by New South Wales' Premier Barry O'Farrell, Dodgers executive vice president Lon Rosen and several MLB and D-backs officials, also marked the first announcement that the clubs would each play an exhibition contest against "Team Australia" prior to their historic games against one another.
Despite a long stint in his familiar No. 17 Dodgers jersey and a pair of jeans, Ellis and his wife, Cindy, eventually received their bags -- and an unbelievable reception from the people of Sydney as well.
"Everyone in this beautiful city has been so hospitable to my wife and I," said Ellis. "The welcome has been first class, and I can really sense an excitement from the Australian sports fans. They are curious to come out and see what makes baseball such a great game and we are going to do our best to deliver."
Ellis, along with Arizona pitcher Patrick Corbin, has been delivering himself in the form of a media blitzkrieg for the Dodgers, MLB and Moore Sports, the promoter responsible for bringing the Opening Series to Sydney. After landing Tuesday morning and starring in the aforementioned news conference just two hours later, Ellis has given countless one-on-one interviews, taped two shows for FOX Sports 1 Australia and one for Qantas Airlines, guested on several radio shows, hosted a clinic for an Australian youth baseball team and visited the historic Sydney Cricket Ground -- all in the last 48 hours.
"It's just an honor to be chosen to represent the Dodgers and talk about the upcoming games and be a small part of this once-in-a-lifetime event," said Ellis. "I was fortunate enough to travel with the club to Beijing in 2008, but these games actually count. Sitting next to Patrick and talking about meaningful games with our divisional rival is really getting the competitive juices going."
It hasn't been all business for the Dodgers backstop, as the traveling group enjoyed the perks of a Sydney Harbour cruise Tuesday night, where he was joined by former battery mate and Aussie native Peter Moylan, who hopped a quick flight from Melbourne to see his old catcher.
"Simply one of the best teammates I've ever had," said Ellis.
Speaking of native Australians, Ellis had time at Manly Beach on Wednesday to visit with Cricket legend Allan Border, considered by Aussies to be one of the greatest to play the sport. The two talked shop for several minutes, touching on leadership, legacy and the evolution of catching gear.
In addition to the cruise, the Ellis' have had two spectacular scenic lunches overlooking the harbor and Manly Beach, but the best may be yet to come. Thursday, members of the group will climb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, an activity not to be skipped when visiting the largest Australian city. There will also still be time left for a trip to the Sydney Zoo, where Ellis hopes to get acquainted with some koalas and kangaroos.
When the Dodgers fly to Sydney next spring, the pioneering franchise will be going to play its first regular-season games outside of North America, but the journey will be the club's ninth official trip abroad following visits to Japan (1956, '66, '93), Mexico (1964, '91, 2003), Taiwan (1993, 2010) and Beijing (2008).
"This is a first for us, usually these games out of the country are preseason or postseason contests," said Rosen. "But these are real games ... we're looking forward to taking on the Diamondbacks, and our whole organization is really excited to take part in this amazing event."
According to Rosen, the Dodgers are eager to grow the game outside of the United States and help spotlight the team brand for those who don't get to visit Dodger Stadium on a regular basis.
"Any time we get an opportunity to showcase our players on an international stage, we are going to do so," said Rosen. "The Dodgers mean so much to so many people outside of Los Angeles and we're proud to continue our wonderful tradition of reaching out to them, this time to the great people of Australia."
Travel packages for the historic series can be purchased at dodgers.com/sydney.
Joe Jareck is the Dodgers' director, public relations.