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Major League Baseball Fouls Up Opening Day By Venturing To Japan

As Major League baseball gets underway with the regular season, questions arise from continuing to open the year in Japan.

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 28: Dustin Ackley #13 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates home run during  MLB match between Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome on March 28, 2012 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 28: Dustin Ackley #13 of the Seattle Mariners celebrates home run during MLB match between Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics at Tokyo Dome on March 28, 2012 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
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If you happened to miss it (which you probably did), the 2012 major league baseball season is underway after the Seattle Mariners defeated the Oakland Athletics 3-1 in 11 innings on Wednesday afternoon (or very early morning if you are in the United States) in Tokyo, Japan.

In what appears to have been a pretty good game, Mariners second basemen Dustin Ackley hit a home run and had two RBI in the win. The game was played in front of a sell-out crowd, and the two squads will be back at it in the early morning hours Thursday.

The issue I have with this is why does major league baseball feel the need to kick off our nation's national past time at bed time for most Americans? And why Japan?

Baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan. Nippon Professional Baseball is the major league equivalent in the country, and the nation also has two minor league levels as well. Major League Baseball shouldn't feel the need to go to Japan and try to drum up a fan base, as that country very well even has a higher national percentage of fans than the United States has.

Now I can understand an entity like the National Football League trying to make the game more global by playing games in England. I don't agree with it, but I understand the reasoning. Most everyone in Europe is soccer fans and don't tend to understand American football quite as well, or they simply don't care as much about it. There is untapped potential there for people to become fans of the American game. But in Japan, the majority of sports viewers are already baseball fans, so why are they being rewarded with our opening day?

Some could argue that it allows Japanese fans the ability to become more excited about American baseball, but that argument isn't valid. I recall seeing Daisuke Matsuzaka make his major league debut on a cold April afternoon in Kansas City back in 2007. The camera bays were full with photographers, and many were Asian media. The same will be true with Yu Darvish for the majority of this season. On many days he pitches, there likely will be as many press credentials given out as a typical World Series game. Asian baseball players playing in the major leagues here in the United States are followed around like rock stars.

There isn't anything wrong with trying to advance the game on a global scene, but Opening Day is not the time to do it, nor is starting the game during the middle of the night for fans in Seattle and Oakland. I understand with baseball having so few off days the logistics are hard to do it any other time. It could likely be arranged to have two teams go to Japan and play a few spring training games, as many teams already play each other in back to back days during already.

And if you really want to make baseball a global game, try going somewhere were you can try to establish a following that isn't already deeply established. With the changing fan demographics in the United States, we are fighting hard enough just to encourage young fans in our own country to continue following the great game.

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