Konnichiwa MLB season: Mariners take on A’s in Japan to open 2012 season

The red carpet has been laid out for Ichiro

The Seattle Mariners get to buck the trend of the Reds being the first MLB game to be played to open the 2012 season. They will take on the Oakland Athletics in a two game series in Japan at the world famous Tokyo Dome.

Baseball is huge in Japan, and after the Mariners witnessed in their exhibition game Sunday night, the fans are about as rabid as English football fans.

Nowhere in America, not even at Yankee Stadium, will you ever see the kind of excitement from fans as you do in Japan. Especially when a few of their native sons return to the homeland to take on one of their own ball clubs.

Return to the land of the rising sun

A homecoming was in order for Ichiro Suzuki, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Munenori Kawasaki, as these three current Mariners are all native to Japan.

Ichiro is the Japanese version of Elvis, so to speak. He still appears in ads, and is treated like an absolute rock start when out and about in Tokyo. I have seen a couple of pics on Twitter, and it looks like he is having a blast lapping up all of the attention he is getting so far on the trip.

Final tune up for the arms race

Hector Noesi got the nod to start the first exhibition game against the Hanshin Tigers. More than anything, I think this start was to give Hector the chance to get a final start in before the start of the regular season.

For the other exhibition start, Mariners manager Eric Wedge has decided to let Hishashi Iwakuma toe the rubber against the Yomiuri Giants.

Mariners in Japan

A homecoming in order for Ichiro, Iwakuma, and Kawasaki

There should be a lot of fanfare for his final start before taking his place in the bullpen to start the season.

Rivals face off on foreign soil

But let’s not forget the real reason why we are all turning our attention to Japan. Opening day! The happiest day of the year! And for us Mariners fans, especially of late, a chance to relish the thought of not trailing the Angels and Rangers, even if it is short lived.

As expected, King Felix Hernandez gets the ball to open the season Wednesday morning against the A’s. Game two will have lefty Jason Vargas going against the A’s.

This schedule actually works out perfect for the M’s, as their next regular season game doesn’t come until the following friday, and barring injury, or extended jet lag, Hernandez and Vargas should be able to start the first two games of the series against the A’s in Oakland on April 6th, and 7th.

They should also be ready to go in games three and four against the Rangers on the 11th and 12th of April. This will give the M’s 6 games against their AL West foes with Fernandez and Vargas getting the starts right off the bat.

This could be huge in getting a fast start in the division this year.

So here’s to a new season, new dreams, and Mariners baseball.


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About Clinton Bell

NWSB Editor. Born and raised in Friday Harbor. Even though he makes his home in Mesa still bleeds Seattle Blue and Green. Mariners Seahawks Sounders till the day he dies! Bring back his Sonics! Connect with Clinton today!
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  • Cool to see the M’s playing as ambassadors of the game in Japan. I still remember when the Canucks and the NHL started a season over there, kind of cool to watch afternoon hockey that means something for a change. 

    • Clinton

      I like these sorts of things, like NFL in London or Mexico City, and especially with baseball. It is so huge in other parts of the world, even bigger than in north America, and it gives the foreign fans a chance to see their hero’s up close and personal. I think the NHL should do a travel series and face the KHL teams, or like a NHL all-stars vs, KHL all-stars series. Or even do a trip that plays against the Swedish Elite league, then the KHL. That would be huge for hockey fans in Europe. But as we all know, Gary Bettman isn’t the easiest guy to convince things to.

  • Dwickum

    Baseball is huge in Japan for sure.  I lived in the Philippines from 2000 to 2006 and used to watch the Mariner games live in the morning on NK1 while I ate breakfast…I miss those days!  I watched the magical run of the 2001 Mariners in Japanese and the excitement was always there despite the language barrier.  Nothing like hearing “Home-Runooo” or watching the pitch count (which is reversed in Japan…a full count in US is 3-2 vs. 2-3 in Japan).  Go M’s!

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