BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 03/05/2012

Thiel: SPNW joins Mariners to explore Japan

Sportspress Northwest will accompany the Mariners on their season-opening trip to Japan to learn more about the influence the Japanese have on Seattle’s major league franchise.

As he has been for a decade, Ichiro is in in the middle of the Mariners vortex. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Never has another another nation so impacted the fortunes of a major league baseball team as Japan has the Seattle Mariners.

From an ownership of 20 years to a star player of 10 years to a steady stream of roster contributors, Japan has, for good as well as not-so-good, changed the course of pro ball in our mossy metropolis.

Baseball fans throughout the Northwest owe a debt of gratitude to Hiroshi Yamauchi, the creator of Nintendo, who stepped forward in 1992 to purchase a majority interest in the franchise and save it from moving. Yet he has never seen a game in person.

He’s never seen play the man to whom he has helped pay more than $100 million, Ichiro, whose dazzling acumen opened the baseball doors to America for more than two dozen of his countrymen, while he became Japan’s first global pop export.

The void in the relationship could change this month, when the Mariners travel to Tokyo with the Oakland A’s. The Mariners aren’t saying if Yamauchi will be in attendance at the Tokyo Dome when the club opens the Major League Baseball season March 28-29.  If he isn’t, well, the Mariners saga will just get weirder.

Weird or wonderful, Sportspress Northwest will be there to bring you the story.   Photographer Drew Sellers and I will chronicle, via text, photos, videos, tweets and Facebook postings, the experience of the club’s first games in Japan, of Ichiro’s first return in uniform, and the customs, traditions and culture of baseball that are so much alike, and so different from, those in America.

We’ll also break away from baseball to look at the scenes from Japan’s eastern coast, where almost a year ago an earthquake and tsunami devastated a nation more prepared than any for nature’s havoc. The lessons there will inform decisions here, where we sit perched on the same Pacific Ring of Fire, waiting.

But baseball is the draw, Japan and Yamauchi the mysteries.  SPNW readers will be the first to know if the opportunity presents for a a couple of Seattle journos to say in person, “Domo arigato, Mr. Yamauchi.”

To stay in touch with our trip, follow us on the site, Twitter and Facebook, as well as in your email inbox. Please drop your email address in our request box on the home page, and don’t forget to like us on Facebook to help make original, experienced, entrepreneurial journalism part of the way forward in the news business.

The Mariners arrive March 23. So will Sportspress Northwest. Someone needs to explain the Mariners to Japan. Then again, maybe Japan will explain the Mariners to us.


  • Art, really looking forward to this!

  • Art, really looking forward to this!

  • Talk about a screwey way to start a season play real games in Japan then come back and play spring games  retarded

  • Talk about a screwey way to start a season play real games in Japan then come back and play spring games  retarded