In 2000, the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets played the first-ever MLB Opening Day game outside of North America. The game was held in Japan at the Tokyo Dome between the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets. This was a watershed moment for baseball fans all over the world. Although not all fans were pleased because they had to get up pretty darn early to watch their teams play.
Mets vs. Cubs
The Chicago Cubs actually had a special connection to Japan at the time. That’s because their former first baseman, Ernie Banks, served as a goodwill ambassador in Japan in the 1980s for Major League Baseball. That made him a highly respected figure by Japanese baseball fans.
The games were broadcast live in Japan, and in the United States. The broadcasts featured a mix of American and Japanese announcers.
The two-game “Opening Series” saw the Cubs and Mets play. The Cubs won the first game 5-3 on March 29, 2000. The following day, the Mets beat them 10-1.
The success of an international MLB Opening Day
The games were a huge success, drawing crowds of over 55,000 fans to the Tokyo Dome each day. Many Japanese fans were experiencing live MLB games for the first time.
Since the 2000 Opening Series, MLB has continued to expand its international presence. They’ve scheduled regular-season games in Mexico, Australia, and Puerto Rico. The league has also focused on building relationships with baseball organizations in South Korea and Taiwan.
The Opening Series was not the first time that MLB teams had played games in Japan. In fact, in 1956, a group of MLB All-Stars, including future Hall of Famers like Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, played a series of exhibition games against Japanese teams.