Major League Baseball is making plans for 2019, with the circuit recently announcing two regular-season international series. The games themselves will attract considerable attention, but the venues where they will take place also offer intrigue—ranging from a well-known baseball facility, to a modern stadium with no experience in the sport.
The first MLB international series in 2019 will run from March 20-21, featuring a matchup between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland A’s at the Tokyo Dome. In perhaps the most high-profile international series of next season, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees will square off from June 29-30 at London Stadium.
Tokyo Dome has hosted professional baseball for years and has been a frequent stop for MLB during its visits to Japan. London Stadium, however, will be the first venue in Europe to host an MLB regular-season series. To look at the contrasts between these two facilities, we profile each.
Originally opening in 1988, the Tokyo Dome has hosted a wide variety of events—including large concerts—over its years of existence. In baseball circles, it is perhaps best known as the home of the Yomiuri Giants.
For MLB, the Tokyo Dome has been a reliable venue for events such as World Baseball Classic games. It has also been the site of several season openers in the past, including a 2000 series between the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets that marked the first MLB regular-season contests to be played outside of North America. In the years since, the Tokyo Dome has hosted multiple season openers, including those in 2004 (Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays), 2008 (Red Sox and A’s), and 2012 (Mariners and A’s).
London Stadium is no stranger to high-profile events. It was originally constructed for the 2012 Summer Olympics and was known upon its debut as Olympic Stadium. Renovations have been completed since the Olympics, many of which have been aimed at making the stadium more conducive to its primary use as the home of the Premier League’s West Ham United.
What has never taken place in the facility, however, is a baseball game. That will change next year with the series between the Red Sox and Yankees. London Stadium will have to morph into a baseball configuration to accommodate the sport, and it is expected that the venue will seat 55,000 for the games.
For a number of reasons, this will be a fairly large event for both the league and the venue. The MLB games could amount to some of the largest exposure that London Stadium has seen since the Olympics, with the presence of a storied rivalry likely to heighten coverage of the event. MLB, meanwhile, has been known to looking to make an entry into Europe, and sending two of its most prominent clubs to London could be a calculated move to make its first impression a strong one.
While the 2019 series is the first to be played at London Stadium, it will not be the last. The agreement with MLB is a two-year deal, meaning that another series between two undetermined teams will take place there in 2020.
Image courtesy London Stadium.
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