The upcoming Spring Training exhibition between the Twins and Tigers in the Dominican Republic reminds us again that baseball is a global game, and growing around the world.
The two American League Central rivals will meet Saturday at Estadio Quisqueya Juan Marichal in Santo Domingo, marking MLB's first game on Dominican soil since 2000 Spring Training, when the Red Sox and Astros played at the same ballpark.
In 2019 alone, MLB played games in Japan, Mexico and the UK. The A's and Mariners opened the season with two games in Tokyo, the Reds and Cardinals and Angels and Astros played a pair of two-game series in Mexico, and the Yankees and Red Sox jumped across the pond for a memorable two-game set in London.
And since 1996, when the Mets and Padres traveled to Mexico to play a three-game series in Monterrey, MLB games have been played in countries that don't have Major League teams to call their own (including Puerto Rico -- which, although it is a U.S. territory, competes as its own team in international baseball competitions like the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics).
Here's a rundown of the Major League Baseball games and series to take place outside the continental United States and Canada. Games are separated by country and listed in chronological order.
March 29-30, 2000: Mets vs. Cubs -- Tokyo Dome
MLB went overseas for the first time on Opening Day 2000, when the Mets and Cubs played in the Tokyo Dome for the first of a two-game season-opening set in Japan.
In front of a massive crowd of 55,000 fans, the Cubs beat the Mets, 5-3, in Game 1. The big hitters for both teams showed up, with Sammy Sosa going 2-for-3 with a double for Chicago and Mike Piazza went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer for the Mets.
Because the Mets were part of the inaugural Mexico series in 1996, this series made them the first Major League team to play games in two different countries outside the U.S. and Canada. "We were saying that it felt like a regular-season game," Piazza said. "We were the home team, but we felt like an away team. Once you got between the lines, it was just a regular game."
The Mets would win a dramatic second game, 5-1, in 11 innings to end the Japan series with a bang. The go-ahead hit was a pinch-hit grand slam by Benny Agbayani in the top of the 11th.
March 30-31, 2004: Yankees vs. Devil Rays -- Tokyo Dome
The Tokyo Dome again hosted on Opening Day in 2004, when the Yankees and Rays took to the field.
The Yankees had Japanese superstar Hideki Matsui, who had just come to the big leagues from Nippon Professional Baseball a year earlier, in 2003. Matsui was returning to his own home stadium -- he had spent a decade with the Yomiuri Giants, who play in the Tokyo Dome.
Matsui was coming off an excellent rookie season in MLB, and he would be even better in 2004. It all started in his home country, to wild fanfare. The Yankees lost the opener, 8-3, but Matsui recorded the very first hit of the MLB season, a double in the first inning. Then he helped lead the Bronx Bombers to a blowout 12-1 win in the series finale, going 2-for-5 and launching a two-run homer. Attendance was listed at 55,000 for each game.
"I'm just glad Matsui's a Yankee and not a Giant," said Kevin Brown, who won his Yankees debut in the second game. "He did an unbelievable job of handling everything he's had to go through over here."
March 25-26, 2008: Red Sox vs. A's -- Tokyo Dome
Four seasons after their rivals, the Red Sox made the trip to Japan to start the 2008 season. The defending World Series champions played a two-game set against the A's, again at the Tokyo Dome.
Like the Yankees in 2004, the Red Sox had a star Japanese player a year removed from the NPB-to-MLB jump: Daisuke Matsuzaka, who had played for the Seibu Lions before coming to Boston and helping the Red Sox win their second title in four seasons.
Dice-K started the season opener in Japan in front of a crowd of 44,628 and pitched five solid innings, allowing two runs and striking out six. The Red Sox pulled off a thrilling comeback in the game to win, 6-5, in 10 innings. With Boston down a run in the ninth, Brandon Moss hit the game-tying home run off A's closer Huston Street, and in the 10th, Manny Ramirez belted a tiebreaking double. Hideki Okajima, who himself had just joined the Red Sox from NPB and once pitched for the Yomiuri Giants in Tokyo, picked up the win in relief.
"I actually had some nerves, even when I was on the mound," Okajima said after the game. "But I was pumped up by the cheering and everybody was just playing so hard. So I thought I had to do the same as well."
The A's earned a series split in the next game with 44,735 fans in attendance, beating the Red Sox, 5-1, on the strength of Rich Harden's six sharp innings of one-run, nine-strikeout baseball.
March 28-29, 2012: Mariners vs. A's -- Tokyo Dome
In what would turn out to be Ichiro Suzuki's final season with the Mariners (until his return in 2018), the Japanese legend returned to his home country, where he starred for the Orix Blue Wave, for a season-opening series against the A's.
On Opening Day, in front of 44,227 fans, Ichiro lived up to all the hype, collecting four hits in the Mariners' 3-1, 11-inning win -- including driving in Seattle's final run with a two-out RBI hit in the 11th. The A's won the second game, 4-1, in front of a crowd of 43,391, with Bartolo Colon pitching eight innings and allowing just one run.
"I've never been that nervous before," Ichiro said after the first game. "The warmth of the fans almost made me want to cry. … I felt the significance of the occasion. I knew it would only happen once in my life. I wanted to share a special moment and give something back to them."
The series had some extra meaning, too, as MLB and the MLB Players Association took the opportunity to assist in the rebuilding efforts in Japan following the previous year's devastating earthquake and tsunami.
March 20-21, 2019: Mariners vs. A's -- Tokyo Dome
The AL West rivals met up again in Tokyo seven years later in a series marked by Ichiro's fond farewell to fans from his native country. The Mariners legend trotted out to right field on Opening Day at age 45, becoming the second-oldest position player to start an opener, and went 0-for-1 with a walk before he was pulled in the fourth inning. The two clubs combined for five home runs in a 9-7 victory for Seattle.
Ichiro suited up again for Game 2, and news broke halfway through the contest that he would indeed be retiring from professional baseball. He went hitless in four at-bats and narrowly missed out on an infield single in his final plate appearance as a Major Leaguer. Suzuki then jogged out to right field one last time to begin the bottom of the eighth before exiting the game alone in front of an emotional Tokyo crowd. Suzuki hugged each of his teammates and coaches -- many of whom, including fellow Japanese native Yusei Kikuchi, had tears in their eyes -- before leaving the field for good.
Meanwhile, the two division rivals didn't appear ready to leave Japan. A's slugger Khris Davis tied the game at four with a two-run single in the bottom of the seventh, and then neither team scored until Dee Gordon came home on Oakland's failed double-play attempt in the top of the 12th. Hunter Strickland closed out the bottom half of the inning for his second straight save, but this game was dominated by Ichiro's farewell.
Aug. 16-18, 1996: Padres vs. Mets -- Estadio de Beisbol, Monterrey
The first MLB regular-season game played outside the U.S. or Canada came more than two decades ago as the Mets and Padres met for the first of three games in Mexico.
That first game was played in front of 23,699 fans, who packed the 25,644-seat stadium. Mexican baseball hero Fernando Valenzuela -- probably the country's greatest Major Leaguer -- not only threw out the ceremonial first pitch, but started the game for the Padres. "With Fernando pitching we're going to feel like the home team," manager Bruce Bochy told The New York Times.
The game was a 15-10 slugfest in favor the Padres. Valenzuela picked up the win for San Diego, Tony Gwynn went 2-for-3 out of the leadoff spot, Ken Caminiti slugged a three-run homer and Greg Vaughn crushed a grand slam.
The following two games also drew big crowds, with 20,873 on hand for the second game and 22,810 at the series finale. The Mets won Game 2, 7-3 -- but the Padres took the series, shutting out the Mets, 8-0, in the finale. Trevor Hoffman closed the game.
April 4, 1999: Padres vs. Rockies -- Estadio de Beisbol, Monterrey
Major League Baseball returned to Mexico three years later. This time it was only for a single game -- but it was Opening Day, rather than a midseason slate.
The crowd was the biggest yet for a game in Mexico: 27,104. Once again, the Padres were the home team. But the Rockies came away with the win, an 8-2 victory. Mexico native Vinny Castilla was one of the stars of the game, ripping four hits for Colorado. Dante Bichette also had four hits, including a sixth-inning home run. Padres icons Gwynn and Hoffman once again played as they did in the first Mexico series, with Gwynn notching a hit and Hoffman tossing an inning in relief.
"It was a good night for me," Castilla said after the game. "I tried my last two at-bats to hit a home run. It didn't happen, but I'm happy for the win. … I feel really excited I played in front of fans in my own country."
May 4-6, 2018: Padres vs. Dodgers -- Estadio de Beisbol, Monterrey
It took 19 seasons for MLB to return to Mexico, and when it did, the Dodgers made history.
Fernando Valenzuela -- the greatest Dodger from Mexico who completed a no-hitter in 1990 vs. the Cardinals -- threw out the ceremonial first pitch. That was before Los Angeles' top prospect Walker Buehler took the mound for the opening contest of a three-game Mexico Series and helped complete the first combined no-hitter in Dodgers history.
"To fly here and to fly outside of our country, where the atmosphere is different, to perform the way we did, it's almost humbling in a way, because you're able to put it together and it makes it a little bit sweeter," Buehler said.
The Padres ultimately got the last laugh, securing wins in each of the next two games by scores of 7-4 and 3-0 to earn the series victory.
April 13-14, 2019: Reds vs. Cardinals -- Estadio de Beisbol, Monterrey
In the opener of the two-game series between the NL Central opponents, Cardinals veteran Adam Wainwright took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, calling up memories of the Dodgers' no-hitter in Monterrey the year before. But the Reds' Jesse Winker broke up the bid with a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the sixth, Derek Dietrich slugged a go-ahead shot in the seventh, and Cincinnati went on to win, 5-2.
The Cardinals broke out in the second game, winning a 9-5 slugfest to split the series. Marcell Ozuna homered twice for St. Louis, and Matt Carpenter broke a 4-4 tie with a go-ahead blast in the top of the seventh inning. The Reds did at least see Yasiel Puig hit his first home run in a Cincinnati uniform, a solo shot in the eighth.
May 4-5, 2019: Astros vs. Angels -- Estadio de Beisbol, Monterrey
The Astros erupted for 24 runs in a two-game sweep of the Angels in Monterrey, winning the first game, 14-2, and the second game, 10-4. Fans were treated to some major fireworks -- the teams crushed 12 total home runs between the two games.
In Game 1, Astros All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman homered twice, teammates George Springer, Yuli Gurriel and Michael Brantley added one each, and Albert Pujols launched one for the Angels. In Game 2, Bregman and Brantley homered again for Houston -- Bregman's was a go-ahead grand slam in the fifth inning -- as did Carlos Correa. Jonathan Lucroy hit a pair of homers for the Angels, and David Fletcher added another.
March 22-23, 2014: Dodgers vs. D-backs -- Sydney Cricket Ground
Major League Baseball took to Australia for the first time in 2014, with the Dodgers and D-backs starting their regular season with two games.
Clayton Kershaw treated the 38,266 fans to a sparkling pitching performance on Opening Day, allowing only one run in 6 2/3 innings while striking out seven. Scott Van Slyke's two-run homer provided most of the offense as Los Angeles won, 3-1.
"We came a long way to get one [win]" Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after the game. "You like to start off on the right foot."
The Dodgers then swept the mini-series with a 7-5 win in Game 2, with 38,079 fans in attendance. Yasiel Puig led the way with a 3-for-5, two-RBI day, and although Arizona pulled within two runs in the ninth after Mark Trumbo launched a home run off Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers held on for the victory.
There have been 49 MLB games played in Puerto Rico at San Juan's Estadio Hiram Bithorn. Forty-three of them were played by the Expos during the 2003 and '04 seasons, the franchise's final two seasons before moving to Washington and becoming the Nationals.
The other six Puerto Rico games were played in 2001, '10 and '18 as part of individual MLB events.
April 1, 2001: Blue Jays vs. Rangers -- Estadio Hiram Bithorn, San Juan
The first game played in Puerto Rico was an Opening Day affair between the Blue Jays and Rangers in 2001 -- so MLB games had already been played in Mexico and Japan by this point.
Both teams had star Puerto Rican players: Ivan Rodriguez for the Rangers and Carlos Delgado for the Blue Jays. Toronto won the game, 8-1, with an announced crowd of 19,891 at Estadio Hiram Bithorn. Delgado roped an RBI single in the seventh inning.
June 28-30, 2010: Marlins vs. Mets -- Estadio Hiram Bithorn, San Juan
Six years after the Expos' run of games in San Juan, Major League Baseball returned to Puerto Rico with a three-game series between the Marlins and Mets. The Marlins' interim manager at the time, Edwin Rodriguez, was the first Puerto Rico native to manage in the Majors.
The Marlins won the first two games, 10-3 and 7-6, respectively. The second game was an exciting walk-off win -- after the Mets rallied for two runs to tie the game in the top of the ninth inning, Dan Uggla delivered the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth.
New York took the series finale, 6-5. David Wright led the way for the Mets with a pair of doubles and a pair of RBIs. Crowds of 18,073, 18,373 and 19,232 were announced for the three games.
April 17-18, 2018: Twins vs. Indians -- Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan
Eight seasons passed before an MLB game was played again in Puerto Rico, and with Indians ace Corey Kluber on the mound, the series opener did not disappoint.
The Cleveland right-hander spun 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball with six strikeouts and the Tribe crushed four homers -- one by Puerto Rico native Francisco Lindor -- en route to a 6-1 victory over Minnesota.
The second contest of the two-game set surpassed all expectations. The two clubs entered the 14th inning in a scoreless tie, before the Indians' Edwin Encarnacion went deep for a solo homer. The Twins' Miguel Sano knotted the score at 1 with a solo blast of his own in the bottom half of the frame.
Then, in the bottom of the 16th inning, Ryan LaMarre singled home Eddie Rosario to send the Twins home winners. The wild five-hour and 13-minute game overshadowed a stellar performance from native Puerto Rican Jose Berrios, who completed seven scoreless frames in the no-decision.
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.