Nine years later, A's and Mariners set for Japan openers
by Wayne Graczyk, Japan Times

Preliminary details have been announced for one of the coming season's biggest events in Japan — the American League's official opening games between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics to take place at Tokyo Dome in late March, and it remains to be seen how many Japanese players will be coming as members of the two visiting clubs.

The Mariners and Ichiro Suzuki will meet the A's to start the major league schedule on March 28 and 29. The opener starts at 7 p.m., while the latter game begins at 6 p.m.

Oakland will be the home team for the series, and we will see if free agent Hideki Matsui re-signs with the Athletics to add further interest for the Japanese fans.

Free agent pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, leaving the Rakuten Eagles, has just signed with Seattle, and there is also a chance former Fukuoka Softbank Hawks shortstop Munenori Kawasaki will make the Mariners roster in spring training.

Both teams will tune up with exhibition games against Central League clubs in doubleheaders at the Big Egg on March 25 and 26. On the 25th, Seattle will play the Hanshin Tigers at noon, followed by the Oakland game against the Yomiuri Giants at 7 p.m. On the 26th, the A's will play the Tigers at noon and the Mariners will meet the Giants at 7 p.m.

The two exhibition contests involving the Giants will be sponsored and billed as the Ito Ham Pre-Season Games, and the entire event is sanctioned by Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association and Nippon Professional Baseball.

All six games will be televised in Japan by NTV.

The Athletics and Mariners were supposed to have opened the 2003 big league season in Tokyo, but the beginning of the Iraq War in March of that year caused the tour to be cancelled just a few days before the teams were scheduled to leave for Japan. Now they will finally be meeting here nine years later.

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