Major League Baseball (MLB) is aiming to commence its 2019 and 2020 seasons in Asia and stage regular-season games in England in June of both years, as further details were revealed of the North American competition’s international plans.
MLB’s international strategy was first disclosed in November when a five-year collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which will run through the 2021 season, was unveiled just hours before the expiration of the previous contract.
This plan was fleshed out on Friday as the CBA was finalised and sent to the clubs. The agreement calls for the season opener to be played in Asia in 2018 and 2020, specifying Japan for 2019. However, the Associated Press news agency said the plans have not progressed for a 2018 Asian opener and those games are now unlikely.
It was announced last month that the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins will travel to Puerto Rico next year to face off in a two-game regular-season series. The games will take place at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan on April 17-18. The series will mark the first time that either franchise has played in Puerto Rico. The CBA calls for an additional series in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic in May 2020.
The masterplan also outlines April series in Mexico from 2018 to 2021 and for May 2019 and 2021.
London’s Olympic Stadium has been widely touted as the home for possible UK games, with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox said to be the most likely teams for 2019.
“Playing major league games abroad is critically important to growing the game internationally, and we are very pleased that the parties were able to agree on a very comprehensive international play plan in bargaining,” MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem told the AP.
The CBA also outlines that players will receive an extra $60,000 (€51,500) each for regular-season visits to Asia or England, and an additional $15,000 for trips to Mexico, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.
The CBA calls for spring training trips over the next three years. These comprise two Mexico series in 2018, Mexico and either Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic in 2019 and one Mexico series in 2020. Players will receive an extra $5,000 for each international spring training series.
In addition, post-World Series tours are planned for Japan in 2018 and 2020, and Asia or Mexico in 2019. Players will get $100,000 for postseason All-Star trips to Japan, $50,000 for the rest of Asia and $25,000 for Mexico.
“Despite the challenges games played outside of the 30 major league ballparks present during the season, players understand and appreciate the value in growing the game and its ever-increasing base of fans in different parts of the world,” Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) spokesman Greg Bouris said. “As such, they are willing to do their part during the term of this agreement.”