For the first time since 2014, MLB will send a team of All-Stars to Japan for an exhibition series against Nippon Pro Baseball All-Stars following the end of the postseason.
According to Kaz Nagatsuka of the Japan Times, Marlins manager Don Mattingly will manage the MLB All-Star team, though it'll be several weeks before the roster is announced. Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Yasiel Puig, and Dexter Fowler were among the players to participate in the 2014 series, which is know as "Nichibei Yakyu" in Japan.
Here's more from Nagatsuka:
"I've seen a list of dozens of superstar players that have put their hands up and said, 'I want to go fly to Japan in November,' " (MLB's vice president for Asia Pacific Jim Small) said. "But while we work through the process, probably it's not fair to comment on any particular names, other than I am very confident we will put a team on the field that will not only satisfy our fans, but also compete and beat Samurai Japan."
Small said that the MLB side would be able to announce a roster "sometime in October or late September."
Understandably, the name most of interest in Japanese baseball fans is Angels wunderkind Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani played five seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters before coming over to MLB last winter. He is currently limited to DH duty by an elbow injury, but, even if he can't pitch, Ohtani would be a huge draw for the exhibition series. Hisashi Iwakuma and Tsuyoshi Wada both played for the MLB team in 2014.
Here are the exhibition series dates. All games will be played at night and, based on the 2014 exhibition series, the games will be broadcast live on MLB Network:
- November 9-11 at the Tokyo Dome
- November 13 at Mazda Stadium in Hiroshima
- November 14-15 at the Nagoya Dome
The MLB Japan All-Star Series has been played at irregular intervals since 1986. The MLB All-Stars lead the all-time series 48-20, though the NPB All-Stars won three of the five games in 2014. The 2018 event will help serve as a development opportunity for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.