Official Major League Baseball Debuts in Japan
April 12, 2000
The opening games of the U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) season were played on March 29 and 30 at Tokyo Dome, the first time for an official Major League game, much less an opening game, to be held in Japan. Tickets for these games have been a hot item, in no small part due to Japanese fans' familiarity with some of the players and managers of the two participating teams, the National League's New York Mets and Chicago Cubs.
Expanding the Market
During a visit to promote the games, Valentine, accompanied by Mets' catcher and star player Mike Piazza, said, "It's been my dream to manage in Japan again. I want Japan's baseball fans to see some good games." Piazza is also well-known to Japanese fans: he caught for Hideo Nomo when the pitcher made his Major League debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cubs, of course, brought with them star slugger Sammy Sosa, who lit up at the plate for three home runs in Japan during the 1998 games between Japan League and Major League all-stars. Sosa has stated his love for Japan, and fans were eagerly awaiting a chance to see one of his arching home-run blasts in person.
Prior to the official opening games, the Mets and the Cubs each took on the Yomiuri Giants and the Seibu Lions of the Japan League on March 27 and 28. These games, which featured such mouth-watering match-ups as Lions' star pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka facing off against Sosa, also perked the interest of fans. On March 27 the Mets crushed the Lions 8-1, while the Giants shur out the Cubs 6-0. The next day, the Giants scored a 9-5 win over the Mets, while the Cubs won a close game with the Lions 6-5.
Start of a New Tradition?
The Cubs and the Mets split the series one game apiece, with the Cubs winning the first game 5-3, and the Mets hitting back the next night to score a 5-1 victory.
Copyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.