Major League Baseball returns Sunday with a more elaborate toy with which to play.

In January, the owners voted to expand the use of instant replay, a tool that can enhance play on the field or hinder it, depending on the call.

The changes, which won unanimous approval in January, allow each manager to have one challenge to a call. They keep the challenge if its confirmed. Teams can never have more than two challenges per game. If all of them are used before the seventh inning, the manager is helpless unless the umpiring crews chief wants to have a call reviewed.

From an initial glance, it looks as if this format might get the entire issue of instant replay right.

At least Commissioner Bud Selig, a former opponent, is happy with it, judging from a Friday teleconference.

I watched in spring training, he said. I think it will have an effect, not only on our fans on television. It will certainly have an effect in [the] park. In the long history of television and baseball, its an evolution like everything else in life is and Im really quite excited by that and Im really anxious to see how it plays.

So are the countrys baseball fans.

Opening morning?

This will get me battered by baseball fanatics, but facts are facts.

MLB fans can call for Opening Day to be a national holiday all they want, but whos going to take that seriously when the league does goofy stuff like have teams open the season in Australia of all places?

What? You didnt know?

The Los Angeles Dodgers swept a two-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks nearly a week ago in Perth.

The first game aired at 4 a.m. Saturday (there was a 15-minute rain delay, according to reports) on the MLB Network.

Funny, I always thought Opening Day was this uniquely American thing.

You know: baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?

I understand MLBs desire to take its game global.

Theres only so much money to be made in the United States, but even that axiom tends to get trumped by new revenue streams that sports leagues and teams manage to find. But to put the season opener in Australia at 4 a.m.?

That defies logic.

Those with whom I talk sports know Im not the biggest baseball fan on the planet, but even I recognize its historical and cultural significance to this country.

Opening morning in Australia?

It just seems to take some of the luster off that national holiday that people want Opening Day to become.

And Ill duck after this statement: Sports fans wont see the NFL presenting its opening weekend spectacle including its games anywhere but home.

The dance goes on

As the NCAA Tournament whittles the party down to a Final Four this weekend, the folks at CBS and Turner Sports are dancing themselves.

Thats because this years tournament big on upsets and drama has garnered its best ratings in 21 years across TBS, CBS, TNT and truTV. The tournament is averaging 9.3 million viewers per night, up 3 percent, according to Nielsen ratings.

George M. Thomas can be reached at gmthomas@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.