Let’s hope New York Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge doesn’t channel his inner Alex Rodriguez this weekend and start hurling haymakers at Boston catcher Christian Vazquez if he’s hit by a pitch.
He won’t, in all likelihood. But as the most heated rivalry in Major League Baseball makes history overseas, it would behoove the teams to make sure all of their players are on their best behavior.
The Yankees and Red Sox will face off in a shortened, two-game series in London this weekend, making it the first time ever Major League Baseball has been played in Europe.
The MLB is always looking to expand its reach. For example, the league opened the 2019 season in Japan, and that's not the first time they've played in that market.
But sending two of the most storied franchises in all of sports to London is a first. And if it’s a success, baseball will have a handful of guys with South Carolina ties to thank.
Unfortunately, former College of Charleston pitcher Heath Hembree didn’t make the flight. The Red Sox hurler is on the Injured List with a right elbow strain.
The same goes for South Carolina Gamecock outfielder Steve Pearce, out until July with a lower back strain.
But Pearce’s Gamecock brethren and teammate, Jackie Bradley Jr. should be in action.
The South Carolina outfielder is only batting .220 this season, with eight homers. But defense is his calling card, and he could easily give England a highlight-reel moment by diving for a fly ball or robbing a Bronx Bomber of a home run.
Boston’s roster is also littered with former members of the Greenville Drive, the franchise’s low-level Class A affiliate.
Fans in the Piedmont region of the state may remember pitcher Matt Barnes and left fielder Andrew Benintendi. Other Red Sox stars who played for the Drive include Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, among others.
The London RiverDogs
In the opposing dugout, College of Charleston legend Brett Gardner should see action for the Yankees.
The Holly Hill native was expected to be used in a more limited role since Yankee sluggers Giancarlo Stanton and Judge returned to the lineup. But Stanton is hurt again and Gardner is getting his time on the field, and has played in 76 of the Yankees’ 80 games this season. Gardner is only hitting .231 but his 11 homers are tied for fifth on the team.
In addition to Gardy, former players from the Charleston RiverDogs, New York’s Class A club, also made the trip to England. Home-run hitter Gary Sanchez will be taking the field, after visiting Charleston earlier this season for a rehab assignment.
And Judge is equally celebrated in the Holy City, after batting .333 with nine long balls and 45 RBIs through in 2014 for the RiverDogs.
It’s unclear which team will have the bigger home-field advantage in London. But if you’re rooting for Team Carolina, you can’t go wrong.