Japan Opening Series 2012 will mark the fourth season opener in Japan and the first since the Red Sox and A's played in '08 at Tokyo Dome, site of next year's openers. Since 1999, 10 clubs (Rockies, Padres, Mets, Cubs, Rangers, Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays, Red Sox and A's) have participated in international openers.
Opening Week in the Majors will start a week later, with the Cardinals at Ozzie Guillen's Miami Marlins on Wednesday, April 4, to christen Florida's new ballpark. Six openers follow the next day, and then all others on April 6, per a previous announcement.
The two-game series in Japan will be dedicated to assisting in the rebuilding efforts across that nation. Japan continues a long recovery from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami last March. The Japanese National Police Agency confirmed 15,805 deaths, 5,927 injuries and 4,040 people missing across 18 prefectures, as well as more than 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed.
"Major League Baseball is very pleased to give Japanese fans a chance to see the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics, two franchises with great popularity in Japan," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Opening Series 2012 will be an excellent opportunity to bring the game of baseball to fans across the globe and to celebrate the many contributions to the game by Japanese players. Most importantly, with the shared love of baseball between our nations, I believe that we can use this event to further assist the ongoing relief efforts throughout Japan."
"We are honored to open the 2012 season in Japan. The Opening Series provides Major League players with an opportunity to use baseball -- a sport cherished and revered by both our nations -- to help our Japanese friends continue their recovery from the devastating tsunami," said MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner. "Major League players look forward to playing before some of the world's most passionate and knowledgeable baseball fans, and we appreciate the support of Nippon Professional Baseball and Yomiuri for helping make this series possible."
Bob Melvin was manager of a 2003 Mariners club that was scheduled to open the season in Japan against Oakland, but 12 hours before their flight was set to leave from Phoenix to Tokyo, the trip was cancelled because the Iraq war had broken out the previous day. Now, Melvin will be A's manager for Japan Opening Series 2012.
MLB, the MLBPA and Yomiuri Giants will announce details regarding their support of Japan Relief in the coming weeks.
"The Seattle Mariners are proud to represent Major League Baseball and open the 2012 regular season in Japan against the Oakland Athletics," Mariners president Chuck Armstrong said. "More Mariners games have been televised in Japan over the past 10 years than any other MLB team, so the fans there will be familiar with us. This will be a memorable experience for our players and our organization."
"The Oakland A's are honored and privileged to participate in this season-opening series," A's president Michael Crowley said. "We were fortunate to make our first visit to Japan in 2008 and still remember fondly the warm reception we received from the fans, the host teams, and the people of Japan. We're very excited about returning next season."
Overall, more than 875,000 fans have attended 21 MLB Opening Series games in Monterrey, Mexico (Rockies vs. Padres in 1999), Tokyo (Mets vs. Cubs in 2000; Yankees vs. Rays in '04; and Red Sox vs. A's in '08), and San Juan, Puerto Rico (Rangers vs. Blue Jays in '01).
Upon conclusion of Japan Opening Series 2012, the Mariners and A's will travel back to the United States to complete an abbreviated exhibition schedule before resuming regular-season schedules on that Friday, April 6.