The Seattle Mariners, who were closing their 2011 season Wednesday, announced earlier in the day they will commence 2012 by playing the Oakland Athletics in a two-game series March 28-29 in the Tokyo Dome.
This will mark the fourth time — and first since 2008 when the Red Sox engaged the Athletics — that a Major League season will open in Japan.
According to MLB, the series is dedicated to assisting the rebuilding efforts across Japan, which was rocked by an earthquake and tsunami in March. Since 1992, the Mariners’ majority owner has been Hiroshi Yamauchi, retired chairman of Nintendo of Japan. He has never seen the team play.
“The Seattle Mariners are proud to represent Major League Baseball and open the 2010 regular season in Japan against the Oakland Athletics,” said Mariners president Chuck Armstrong. “More Mariners games have been televised in Japan over the past 10 years than any other major league team, so the fans there will be familiar with us. This will be a memorable experience for our players and our organization.”
In 2001, Ichiro Suzuki became the first position player to make an MLB roster. His decade in Seattle has been a source of Japanese pride and intense media interest.
Following the two-game series, the Mariners and Athletics will return to the United States to complete an abbreviated preseason schedule before resuming the regular season.
In 2003, the Mariners and Athletics were scheduled to start the season in Japan, but the series was canceled at the last minute due to world tensions stemming from the U.S. invasion of Iraq (the series would have been played within the 48-hour time limit that the U.S. had given Saddam Hussein to leave Iraq). The Mariners and Athletics instead opened the regular season in Oakland.