Dodgers spread baseball gospel at beach

SYDNEY -- A group of Australian little leaguers were asked who they were most excited to meet on the Dodgers. After a few quiet seconds, one of them piped up, "Ryan Kershaw!"

Clearly, there's a little work to do in spreading the gospel of America's pastime to the Australian youth.

In fact, that is a pretty good way of describing the whole point of this Opening Series Down Under. Wednesday, the Dodgers played their part in that mission, with a group of their younger players visiting one of the most famous, most beautiful beaches on earth -- Bondi Beach -- to mingle with two little-league teams from the Sydney suburbs.

Teresa Fletcher had her two boys, Jack, 6, who was wearing a Dodgers cap and Luke, 9, who was wearing a Diamondbacks hat. They play for the Ilawong Marlins. Teresa Fletcher said her family was watching the news on TV Tuesday night when a clip of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks brawl from last June was shown. Nice way to hype this weekend's series, huh?

"I said, 'Oh, no, none of that,' " Teresa Fletcher said.

If you've ever been around two young boys, you know exactly what she was feeling. They don't need any more prompting to start fighting again.

Emma Green, 13, was at Bondi Beach, too, to mingle with the Dodgers. She's 13, but she has been playing baseball since she was 5. A club baseball team visited her elementary school and gave a demonstration and she was hooked. Green's mom woke up the other day and her daughter was in front of the TV watching a U.S. spring training game. It was 3 a.m.

So, yeah, there are some kids in Australia who have caught the baseball bug. Many of the little-league families I met were planning to attend one of the Dodgers-Diamondbacks games or one of the exhibitions against the Australian national team.

Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz looked as if he was having a good time in his sunglasses and flip-flops mingling with the Australian kids. He said most of them asked him how he liked Australia so far, but he didn't get much probing about the intricacies of catching. He sensed more enthusiasm than knowledge.

"A lot of them said they like it better than cricket, so that's good," Federowicz said.

The players got something out of it, too, in addition to spending time with some charming kids. They took a boat ride back to their hotel that featured stunning views of the Harbor Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. First, they stopped to pose for pictures with a comely young blond lifeguard. She gave catcher Drew Butera a demonstration in paddleboard rescue and he looked pretty pleased with it.

Adrian Gonzalez walked up a few minutes later in sunglasses and a backward baseball cap. He was just visiting Bondi Beach when he ran into the Dodgers goodwill mission. He good-naturedly posed for a few photos. The beach sweeps to the south and then climbs some stone stairs to a sweeping view of the beach and those to the south, with rocks and the dark blue Tasman Bay dominating the senses. Mark Trumbo, the Arizona Diamondbacks new outfielder, was hanging out enjoying the view. He said it reminded him some of Newport Beach, not far from where he grew up.

It appears the players are enjoying this Australia trip more than they thought they would.