The other day, I saw Buster Olney tweet that the American League's first pitch of the 2012 regular season would be thrown by Justin Verlander to Jacoby Ellsbury. That would make for compelling stuff - Verlander was last year's AL Cy Young and MVP, while Ellsbury was the MVP runner-up. That would be a true season-opening showdown between superstars.
Alas, Buster Olney was wrong. The first pitch of the 2012 regular season - overall - will be thrown by Brandon McCarthy, to Chone Figgins. Still a season-opening showdown between superstars, but not the superstars that Olney had pegged.
Indeed, Wednesday morning brings us the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners, a week before anybody else gets started. It's Wednesday morning because the Athletics will play the Mariners in Tokyo, Japan. I'll explain more by using the Five Ws, and one H.
The Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners!
The first regular-season baseball game of 2012!
7:10 p.m. local time, which means 3:10 a.m. PDT, and 6:10 a.m. EDT!
The regular season needs to start eventually and opening in Japan highlights the globalization of the sport!
Mainly pitched and batted baseballs!
Major League Baseball has opened the regular season in Japan before, most recently in 2008, when the Boston Red Sox traveled with the Oakland Athletics. Major League Baseball really wants to expose Japanese people to the Oakland Athletics. In 2012, the Athletics and Mariners will play two games in the Tokyo Dome before returning to the states - Wednesday, at 3:10am PDT, and Thursday, at 2:10am PDT. A lot of people will get up or stay up for the first one, but maybe not so much the second one.
The opener pits ace Brandon McCarthy against very different ace Felix Hernandez, and McCarthy will throw the first pitch because the A's are the designated home team. It sounds weird, because the A's have zero Japanese players while the Mariners have two active Japanese players and one inactive Japanese player, but it is what it is. It would be reaaaallllyyyy easy to make an A's attendance joke here, and most of the fans will presumably be rooting for the Mariners, but I'll leave this one be. Nothing good can come of cheap jokes.
If you're interested in watching or following the game, you're in luck, mostly. MLB.com will have a Gameday broadcast. The game'll be on the radio. It'll be streamed online on MLB.tv, and people in the Pacific Northwest can watch live on ROOT Sports. MLB Network will broadcast on a three-hour delay, so that's scheduled for 9am EDT. That might be more acceptable for a lot of people, if they can avoid spoilers. If they even care. They might just want to see meaningful baseball, even lacking the suspense.
The opener might not be the most interesting game of the season, but it will be an interesting game in the season. Felix usually makes for good viewing, and he'll be the first pitcher Yoenis Cespedes faces in a real game unless something goes horrifyingly wrong. Ichiro will play, in front of an adoring home audience and inside of a stadium that features advertisements with his face on them. Munenori Kawasaki might play in front of an adoring home audience, too, and as observers of the WBC can attest, it's always entertaining to watch and listen to an international crowd. Throw in some names like Jemile Weeks, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero, and
Cliff Pennington someone else and those who get up early to follow along shouldn't regret it too much.
I'm not pulling an all-nighter, myself. I set my alarm for 2:45am, and I hated doing it. But this is the season opener, and that calls for sacrifices. Even if you're not a fan of either team, this could be worth a day of non-stop yawning.