In a sign that MLB and the MLBPA are close to reaching a new labor agreement, major events for the upcoming 2012 season are already being announced.
Case in point, the league will open its season in Tokyo, Japan for the fourth time when the Athletics will play Mariners in Japan Opening Series 2012, a two-game set scheduled for March 28 and 29.
Japan Opening Series 2012 will mark the first MLB season opener in Japan since the Boston Red Sox and Athletics played at the Tokyo Dome in 2008. Since 1999, ten MLB Clubs (Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics) have participated in international openers.
On top of the games, the league and PA announced that they will be dedicated to assisting in the rebuilding efforts across Japan with more details coming in the following weeks. The following is the tentative schedule of events:
Date Game Venue
Wednesday, March 28 Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics* Tokyo Dome
Thursday, March 29 Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics* Tokyo Dome
*The Athletics will be the home team and the Mariners the visitor for both MLB Championship Season games. Start times will be determined at a later date.
“Major League Baseball is very pleased to give Japanese fans a chance to see the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics, two franchises with great popularity in Japan,” said Commissioner Selig. “Opening Series 2012 will be an excellent opportunity to bring the game of baseball to fans across the globe and to celebrate the many contributions to the game by Japanese players. Most importantly, with the shared love of baseball between our nations, I believe that we can use this event to further assist the ongoing relief efforts throughout Japan.”
“We are honored to open the 2012 season in Japan. The opening series provides Major League players with an opportunity to use baseball – a sport cherished and revered by both our nations – to help our Japanese friends continue their recovery from the devastating tsunami,” said MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner. “Major League players look forward to playing before some of the world’s most passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans, and we appreciate the support of Nippon Professional Baseball and Yomiuri for helping make this series possible.”
“The Seattle Mariners are proud to represent Major League Baseball and open the 2012 regular season in Japan against the Oakland Athletics,” said Mariners President Chuck Armstrong. “More Mariners games have been televised in Japan over the past ten years than any other MLB team, so the fans there will be familiar with us. This will be a memorable experience for our players and our organization.”
“The Oakland A’s are honored and privileged to participate in this season-opening series,” said Oakland A's President Michael Crowley. “We were fortunate to make our first visit to Japan in 2008 and still remember fondly the warm reception we received from the fans, the host teams, and the people of Japan. We’re very excited about returning next season.”
Overall, more than 875,000 fans have attended 21 MLB Opening Series games in Monterrey, Mexico (Rockies vs. Padres – 1999), Tokyo, Japan (Mets vs. Cubs – 2000, Yankees vs. Rays – 2004, Red Sox vs. Athletics – 2008), and San Juan, Puerto Rico (Rangers vs. Blue Jays – 2001).
Upon conclusion of Japan Opening Series 2012, the Mariners and Athletics will travel back to the United States to complete an abbreviated exhibition schedule before resuming their Championship Season schedules.
Organizers of Japan Opening Series 2012 include MLB, MLBPA, NPB and Yomiuri. Further details on all of the games and events surrounding Japan Opening Series 2012 will be announced at a later date.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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