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MLB returns to Japan for 2019 season-opener

Major League Baseball (MLB) has reaffirmed its commitment to the Japanese market by announcing it will open its 2019 season in the country, along with scheduling an All-Star Tour for later this year.

The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners will open the 2019 Championship Season with a two-game set on March 20-21 at the Tokyo Dome in the Japanese capital. The 2019 Japan Opening Series, which will serve as A’s home games, will represent the fifth time that MLB has opened its season in Tokyo.

The last Opening Series in Tokyo took place in 2012, when the A’s and Mariners split the two games. The 2019 Series will mark the eighth season-opener to be played internationally. MLB has previously opened seasons in Monterrey, Mexico (1999); Tokyo (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012); San Juan, Puerto Rico (2001); and Sydney, Australia (2014).

“The Mariners have been closely tied to Japan since Nintendo purchased a majority of the team in 1992 and have had Japanese players on our roster every season since 1996,” Mariners chairman and managing partner, John Stanton, said. “It is an honour for our team to return for the Opening Series in 2019, and we look forward to this opportunity.”

The All-Star Tour games in November will mark the 37th time overall that MLB players have toured Japan for exhibition games, dating back to 1908. The All-Star Tour will be hosted at the Tokyo Dome, as well as in Hiroshima (Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium) and Nagoya (Nagoya Dome).

The events will begin with an exhibition game against the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo on November 8, followed by three games in Tokyo from November 9-11, one game in Hiroshima on November 13 and two games in Nagoya on November 14-15.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said: “The renewal of the All-Star Tour gives MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball an outstanding opportunity to continue a longstanding tradition that showcases the best of our game for our many fans across Japan, as well as build up excitement for the 2019 Opening Series between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics.

“The city of Tokyo offers a terrific backdrop for the Opening Series, and we look forward to once again bringing Major League games to the Japanese fans as we celebrate our shared love of baseball.”

As part of the 2019 Japan Opening Series, the A’s and Mariners will also compete against Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) teams in day/night doubleheaders scheduled for March 17-18.

Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Atsushi Saito added: “With our goal of winning a gold medal in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, this gives our players experience in high-level games against MLB players.”