Mariners And Athletics Will Open 2012 Season In Japan

Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners singles in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Three times in MLB history, teams have played an Opening Series in Japan: in 2000 between the Cubs and Mets, in 2004 involving the Yankees and then Devil Rays, and in 2008 matching the Red Sox and Athletics.

MLB announced today that they will again open the 2012 MLB season in Tokyo, Japan, this time with the Mariners facing the Athletics:

Major League Baseball will open its season in Tokyo, Japan for the fourth time when the Oakland Athletics take on the Seattle Mariners in Japan Opening Series 2012, a two-game set scheduled for March 28 and 29, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced today.

For the first time, these games will involve the major leagues' most popular Japanese-born player, Ichiro, who is completing the worst year of his major league career with the Mariners. Both he and the Mariners, obviously, hope he bounces back in 2012; his first opportunity to do so will be in front of his home country fans.

Both of these games are A's home dates, according to the A's official Twitter:

The March 28-29 regular-season contests in Tokyo will now replace A's home dates vs. Seattle originally scheduled for April 8 and July 5.

Players complain about the 10,000-mile travel and the jet lag, but speaking as a fan who attended the Cubs/Mets games in 2000 in Japan, it is an amazing time spent in a fascinating country. People couldn't have been friendlier there and it was great to talk baseball with Japanese fans, most of whom speak enough English to be well understood.

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