I’m up most weekday mornings around 5 AM ET, which somehow makes me the sleepy head of the household as everyone else is either getting ready for work or either out the door. Regardless, I have a pretty set system before making the trek from Long Island into Manhattan: force myself out of bed, go to the gym, come home, clean up, get on the train.
As I was forcing myself awake this morning I turned on ESPN, which is generally a mistake, to find out that they were showing a replay of a Mariners, Athletics game. No highlights from last night? Really?
It was only when I achieved total consciousness that I realized that this wasn’t a replay, but the first game of Major League Baseball’s regular season between Oakland and Seattle, being played in Japan.
I have some issues with this.
First of all, the league couldn’t have done a worse job marketing this game, which is par for the course. Had I not haphazardly turned on the television, there is no way I would have realized the 2019 season was underway until I saw the highlights start rolling in.
The Mariners won 9-7, by the way, in case you were wondering.
If this was the NFL or NBA, we’d be seeing long-form segments with movie-star narrations on ESPN or commercials every other six minutes two months leading up to this game. Just look at the production value on some of these TV spots advertising a regular-season basketball game. It’s incredible.
Yet baseball — our national pastime — continues to make little to no efforts to market 90-percent of its teams and a majority of its stars. I should be seeing images of Mike Trout and Mookie Betts on every street corner in New York City.
Instead, I’m stumbling upon the first game of the season at 5:15 in the morning.
And talk about alienating a majority of the fan base with this. Major League Baseball sent two west-coast teams over to Japan for this two-game series in the Mariners and Athletics, meaning fans had to wake up at 2:30 AM PT just to see their favorite teams start the season.
Plus, there’s just something sacrilegious about starting an MLB season in Japan, a baseball-wild country that has a league of its own to enjoy.
Major League Baseball has done this before. In fact, starting in 2000, they opened the regular season in Japan ever four years until 2012. In 2014, they took the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks and banished them to Australia to start the season.
I understand if there is a feeling of need to grow the game of baseball and increase its international presence much like the NFL and NBA have done over the years. However, it should be an exhibition game or any other regular-season series from April to July before the All-Star break. We don’t need second-half games, which carry a little more clout, being shipped away from the States forcing teams to lose out on valuable home games.
Opening Day is just too sacred.
Look, if archaeologists or anthropologists 2,000 years from now stumble upon the ruins of the United States and attempt to study its culture, I believe there will be four things that will be seen as the country’s greatest contributions:
1) The Constitution
The game was created here, perfected here, grown here. It’s just not right going to another country and placing one of the most hallowed days in sports, Opening Day, overseas. That’s right, Opening Day should be a national holiday, but that’s another column for another time.
I’m a firm believer that Opening Day should feature just one game, which the league got right at least in this instance. However, every single year, it should be held in Cincinnati.
Yes, especially this season.
Cincinnati is one of the most historic baseball cities in the United States and the Reds are celebrating accordingly, marking the 150th anniversary of professional baseball in the Queen City.
The Cincinnati Red Stockings, founded in 1866, became baseball’s first all-professional team in 1869 where they boasted some of the game’s first pioneers in brothers George and Harry Wright. The Red Stockings won 130-consecutive games from 1869-1870 before a loss to the Brooklyn Atlantics saw ticket sales drop so low, the team was forced to dissolve.
The original Wright brothers took the name Red Stockings, moved to Boston and started a new club there. That team now is the Atlanta Braves.
Five years later in 1876, a new version of the Red Stockings returned to Cincinnati and became a charter member of the National League only to disband three years later. They once again returned to the American Association in 1882 before jumping back to the National League in 1890 where they’ve remained.
Acknowledging its historical importance to the game, the powers that be always made sure that the first pitch of the new baseball season from 1876-1989 was thrown in Cincinnati (if there was a team). For some reason.
It’s only fitting to kick off the season in Cincinnati once again, even if it’s just for this year.