Where EAST meets the Northwest
BASEBALL IN BRITAIN. New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka throws
a pitch against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in
London. Major League Baseball made its European debut game at Olympic Stadium.
(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
From The Asian Reporter, V29, #14 (July 15, 2019), pages 9 & 15.
MLB scraps 2020 Asia opener; Manfred eyes more Europe games
By Ronald Blum
The Associated Press
LONDON — Major League Baseball (MLB) has scrapped plans to open its 2020
season in Asia and hopes to play more games in Europe.
MLB started its season in Tokyo for the fifth time in 2019, and its labor
contract with the players’ union called for a 2020 opener in Asia.
"We just decided it probably wasn’t the right time to try to do it," Manfred
In addition to Tokyo and London, MLB had two series in Monterrey, Mexico.
"We have a fairly small international staff. This was a really aggressive
play for us this year," Manfred said.
Union head Tony Clark said baseball is focusing on a 2020 offseason tour.
"So we still have Asia tentatively on the calendar as far as we’re
concerned," Clark said in a text. "The 2019 events have taxed the initial play
plan that was anticipated during the term of this agreement."
The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox played MLB’s first games in Europe in
late June at London’s Olympic Stadium, the home of the Premier League soccer
club West Ham. The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are to play at the same
venue next June.
"I would like to have sustained play in Europe," Manfred said. "I’m glad
we’re coming back next year. I’d like to be back after that. But I am interested
in having play in other cities in Europe."
Manfred would not identify which cities interest him.
"We’re really at a very preliminary point. The key thing with any city is the
facility," he said. "A lot of people will tell you they can build a ballpark.
Until you get on the ground and figure whether a particular facility can be
configured for baseball, it’s just premature to get into other cities."
Manfred said 70% of the tickets for the Yankees-Red Sox games were sold in
Britain and 30% in the U.S. Red Sox season ticket holders purchased an average
of 5,831 seats per game and Yankees buyers 4,752 during the presale.
"We’re trying to bring baseball to the U.K., so that 70% is important to us,"
he said. "That 30% is our most loyal, devoted, interested fan base, and the fact
that those people want to travel either from New York or Boston to see a
Yankee-Red Sox game, it’s not bad news for us, either."
MLB hopes the games in London grow European fan engagement and player
"We have 20 people from Europe under contract with major league
organizations, We’d like to see that number grow," he said, "Obviously when you
have a European player, a player from a particular country making his mark in
the major leagues, it drives interest among the people in that country, and
that’s really important for us."
The NFL has played regular-season games annually in London since 2007, and
the NBA since 2011. The NHL opened its 2007-2008 season at London’s O2 Arena but
has not returned.
"Playing in Europe presents some challenges for us that the NFL doesn’t
have," Manfred said. "It’s a lot easier for them to play in a soccer/football
stadium, virtually impossible for us. So we do have additional challenges."
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