Generally speaking, the first thing I want to see when I wake up is NOT the fourth deadliest snake in the world, but hey, that’s what I get for visiting Australia. Thankfully the snake wasn’t slithering in my bed. It was a pet, stored safely in a glass case, so when my friend Ray Burton offered to show it to me, I figured, “Why the hell not?”

Here he is trying to get the snake’s attention . . .


. . . and here’s the snake itself:


That’s a death adder, and I’d like everyone to know that Ray took that photo with my camera. The lid was off the case, and he reached his hand right in there and . . . just no.

Ray told me he’s been bitten twice by death adders and that he survived because it happened long ago when he was much younger and healthier. The last time it happened was 1989, causing him to “vomit uncontrollably within ten minutes and lapse in and out of consciousness within fifteen.”

After two full days in his home (and just as I was getting ready to leave for good with them), Ray gave me a quick tour of the upstairs area. Here he is with his son Alex on the balcony:


Here’s Alex’s room — note the Phillies comforter:


Here are some trophies . . . with a few snake skins sitting around, just because:


As I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent entries, I met Ray and his family when they hired me in 2012 for two Watch With Zack games at Citizens Bank Park. It was part of a huge baseball trip that they went on, and they enjoyed it so much that they put a book together to commemorate the experience:


Here’s a two-page spread about our first game . . .


. . . and here’s a closer look at what they wrote about the second.


At 1pm, we loaded several days’ worth of stuff into Nick’s car . . .


. . . and headed off to Sydney, which was going to take an hour and a half without traffic. I really really *REALLY* needed the roads to be clear because I was due at the Sydney Cricket Ground at 3:30pm — not for a game, but for a photo shoot with the Sydney Morning Herald.

More on that in a bit, but first, take a look at the meat pie that I ate on the way:



In addition to the beef, this one had cheese, potato, onions, tomatoes, and bacon — and yeah, it was amazing. We all had meat pies. Here’s a photo of Nick eating and driving:


We made it to the stadium by 3pm, struggled to find a place to park, and started walking toward the media gate with just a few minutes to spare:


Finally we made it:


In the photo above, the woman on the right (with the short blonde hair) is named Alexandra Back. She was going to be writing the story about me for the newspaper, and because of a logistical mishap in securing a photographer, she was going to be taking the pictures too.

After waiting for a couple of minutes, we were greeted by a woman named Courtney from Moore Sports. At the time, I hadn’t even heard of that company, but evidently they’re the ones who helped make the whole MLB-in-Australia thing happen.

Courtney led me and Alexandra inside the stadium:


All four Burtons got to join me, and we headed into the seats:


Check out the sign at the bottom of the steps:


Alexandra and I discussed the best places to take photos and decided to start in the second deck. Courtney led the way back up the steps and into a funky old grandstand:


I lagged behind so I could grab a few photos. Here’s what was on my right just after I stepped inside:


This was the staircase to the second deck:


It was wild! Carpet-lined hallways and wooden banisters in a stadium?! Once again, I didn’t know it at the time, but we were in a section called the Members Pavilion, which is the oldest and most exclusive area of the Sydney Cricket Ground. Figuring I’d be back there for the next two days to wander and explore, I snapped these few photos as an afterthought. As it turned out, though, I was never able to get back into this area, so it’s a good thing I used my camera here when I had the chance.

This was my view from the second deck:


While Alexandra and I talked a bit more, Ray took some photos with his own camera. Here’s the Opening Series logo on the jumbotron:


Here are the Diamondbacks pitchers coming out:


(It killed me that Heath Bell wasn’t there. How perfect would that have been?)

Here’s the grounds crew setting up the batting cage:


Here’s the Australian team starting to get loose:


They were going to be playing an exhibition game against the D’backs.

It wasn’t long before the photo shoot got underway:


In case you’re wondering about those six baseballs, I’d brought them from New York as a gift for Ray. It hadn’t occurred to me that they might serve as a prop for the photo shoot, but when the day arrived, it was like, “Duh! I’ll bring the balls just in case!”

Here’s a photo I took before we headed downstairs:


Down on the field level, I clowned around for Alexandra and her camera:


Here’s a photo she took moments later:


Ultimately this was the basic angle/pose that made it into the newspaper:


Here’s the article, in case you’re interested.

Before heading out, Alexandra and I posed for a photo together and got photobombed by Mike Fetters:


Courtney offered to hook me up with tickets (five in total for me and the Burtons) for the evening’s game, but I declined. I was thrilled to have gotten a peek inside the stadium, but I didn’t care AT ALL about watching a contest that meant nothing in the standings, especially when there were so many other things in Sydney I wanted to do . . . such as visiting Bondi Beach.

That’s where we headed next . . .


. . . and even though I wasn’t properly dressed for it, I was glad to be there:


I had heard about a scenic walk from Bondi to a nearby beach called Tamarama, so that’s what we did. Look how beautiful it was:


Once again, the Burtons were *so* patient and generous with their time. I’m not sure if they’d gone on this walk before, and if they hadn’t, who knows if they even really wanted to do it. But they did. And it was great to have them with me. Here they are — Nick in the teal shirt followed by his sister Emily, father Ray, and younger brother Alex:


I forgot to mention that Emily, currently studying at Sydney University, met up with us after the photo shoot. She traded places with her mother, Donna, and joined us for our trip to the beach.

Here’s a look at Tamarama Beach at dusk:


By the time we walked back to Bondi Beach, it was dark:


Our next stop was Chinatown, and all five Burtons were with me. Here’s a photo that Donna took of me with the others:


The streets were packed . . .


. . . and there were all kinds of unusual things to eat:


I passed on the jerky and got some dumplings instead:


I also got a delicious slab of pork . . .


. . . followed by a pancake-sandwich thingy filled with custard:


Extra thanks to Nick who wanted to go sit down at a restaurant and have a proper meal, but kindly indulged my desire to wander aimlessly and eat a little bit of everything. Thanks to the whole family. It’s amazing how much stuff we packed into one day, and I could not have done it (nor would I have had nearly as much fun) without them.


No problem Zack. You’re good company and fun to have around. It’s interesting to see your own country through an overseas visitor’s perspective. We managed to do a lot and it was a long day but , definitely , a great time was had by all.

I can’t believe we were in Chinatown… Sydney, Australia…..on the same night…….and didn’t run into each other. That would have been funny. Dolly and I took the same picture at the entrance to Chinatown. Later……..

Yea… that snake? No thanks. Usually things that make me uncontrollably vomit within ten minutes turn me away. Man, those beaches are amazing… I’ll get there someday. I’m loving your behind the scenes pictures of the rest of your trip, very enjoyable. When you have some free time, I finally got to writing Game 1 of the Montreal series. See ya tomorrow/today perhaps (weather permitting)?

– Chris

Awesome photos! Is that really Kangaroo jerky? Wow!

Zack, great entry. Ray, when are you going to start a blog on your your veterinary practice? You must see some interesting things. Please consider it. (You keep a death adder in your home? Your wife is the most understanding woman in the world!)

Well, thanks. I’m glad the feeling is mutual.

It would’ve been fantastic. Oh well. And by the way, I know I owe you a few emails. I’ve just been really busy/exhausted lately, but I’ll get on it.

Glad you’re enjoying all these pics. As for the Mets game today, I’m gonna skip it. It’s cold as hell, and there’s a 75 percent chance of rain, but worst of all, it’s Citi Field.

I didn’t eat any, but I’m going to assume that it wasn’t a joke.

The snakes are actually kept in his “man cave” which is in a separate structure next to the house, but still. Wow.


All of the food looks so good!

An American in Australia eating Chinese food. You, sir, are a fascinating specimen. Those Burtons sure are hospitable! I feel like I know them all just through these entries.

Aww, hell, I’ll eat Chinese food anywhere. I ate it often in Paris when I lived there for six weeks in 1996. The Burtons are the best. I’m sure they’ll be back in the USA soon-ish for baseball — maybe even on the west coast, so if you see them, make sure to introduce yourself and say hi.

You gave me a ball at the mets braves game. I very much thank you for that you made my life

You’re welcome! I wish everyone I gave a ball to were as excited about it as you were. Enjoy!

You are such a great man no matter what that kid says dont let anyone bring you down or tell you different.keep catching balls and keep doing great things

Ha, thanks. That kid is just a sore loser and a complainer. I’m not too concerned about it.

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