MLB is going global again in 2012
Major League Baseball just announced that the 2012 season will begin in Japan, with the Seattle Mariners facing the Oakland Athletics. The regular season games will take place March 28th and 29th with the Mariners being the visiting team in the Tokyo Dome.
The Mariners will depart their Spring Training home in Phoenix and spend 9 days for the excursion, also playing two exhibition games while in Japan. They will then fly back to Phoenix and finish out the Spring Training schedule and will resume regular season play April 6th in Oakland.
It’s almost like a second home for the Mariners as they have been broadcast in television in Japan more than any other team in the past 10 years, according to Mariners President Chuck Armstrong. This is largely in part to Mariners perennial All-Star and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki‘s popularity in his home country.
Ichiro played 9 season in Japan for the Orix Blue Wave of Nippon Professional Baseball, becoming a superstar there before coming to the Mariners in 2001.
While playing for the Blue Wave, Ichiro faced the likes of Hideo Nomo, who would later on win National League Rookie of the Year for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Some say Ichiro paved the way for Japanese players to enter the big leagues as players like Hideki Mastui, Kenji Jojhima, So Taguchi and Kazuo Matsui have all come this way to play professional baseball since.
In 9 seasons with the Orix Blue Wave, Ichiro won 7 consecutive batting titles and 3 consecutive MVP awards, just to name a couple of his accolades. And we’re all no stranger to what he has done in the United States.
This could work out in the Mariners favor. The Mariners and Japan have a long standing relationship since Ichiro came to the Major Leagues. The relationship has seemingly brought more tourism to Seattle, and to Safeco Field, and this series could add to that flow of traffic coming to and from based on Ichiro’s popularity and the growing popularity of Major League Baseball overseas.
This is the fourth time now that the MLB season has opened in Japan with a 2 game series. It last happened in 2008, with the Red Sox and A’s squaring off.
Due to the 2 road games in Japan, the April 8th and July 5th contest between the two teams will be off days for the Mariners.