Take me out to the ball game: MLB planning 2019 and 2020 season openers in Asia

Collective bargaining agreement reached in November is confirmed, and contains a schedule for international play through until 2021

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 July, 2017, 1:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 July, 2017, 1:20pm

Major League Baseball plans to start the 2019 and 2020 seasons in Asia and play regular-season games in England in June of both years.

The collective bargaining agreement reached in November was finalised and sent to the clubs on Friday, and it contains a schedule for international play through until 2021 along with how much extra money each player will receive for making the trips.

“Playing major league games abroad is critically important to growing the game internationally, and we are very pleased that the parties were able to agree on a very comprehensive international play plan in bargaining,” Major League Baseball (MLB) chief legal officer Dan Halem said.

The agreement calls for the season opener to be played in Asia in 2018 and 2020 and specifies Japan for 2019. However, plans have not progressed for a 2018 Asian opener and those games are now unlikely.

A two-game series between the Cleveland Indians and the Minnesota Twins in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has already been announced April next year, and the agreement calls for an additional series in Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic in May 2020.

“I think it’s probably been in the works for a while for MLB to try to find out how to expand on the international and global market,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said.

“You try to market your product the best way you can into the most expansive areas you can. The fact we were able to pique enough interest in fan bases from parts maybe we never would have imagined a decade or two ago can only be good for the game.”

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Series in Mexico are planned for each April from 2018-21 and for May 2019 and 2021.

London’s Olympic Stadium has been looked at as a possible venue for the games in Great Britain, and the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are the most likely teams for 2019.

“Despite the challenges games played outside of the 30 major league ballparks present during the season, players understand and appreciate the value in growing the game and its ever-increasing base of fans in different parts of the world,” union spokesman Greg Bouris said. “As such, they are willing to do their part during the term of this agreement.”

The NFL has played regular-season games in London since 2007 and has expanded to four games next season, when it also will play in Mexico City for the second straight year.

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The NBA has held regular-season games in Japan, London and Mexico City since 1990, and NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant of the champion Golden State Warriors is in India as an ambassador supporting the sport’s growth.

“Sharing my love of basketball with thousands of boys and girls across India was an unbelievable experience,” said Durant, who along with 3,459 Indian children set a Guinness World Record for the largest basketball lesson ever with some participating via satellite.

Baseball players will receive an extra $60,000 each for regular-season trips to Asia or England, and an additional US$15,000 for trips to Mexico, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. Each event can be one, two or three games.

No games in Australia are in the works during the five-year deal, which began this season.