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Mariners, A's will open '19 season in Japan

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- The Mariners and A's will open next season in Tokyo, Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday, marking the second time the two American League West foes have squared off at the Tokyo Dome to begin a regular season.

The clubs will play a two-game series on March 20-21, with the games counted officially as home contests for Oakland. The Mariners and A's will also play two exhibition games each against Japanese teams on March 17-18 in doubleheaders at the Tokyo Dome.

SEATTLE -- The Mariners and A's will open next season in Tokyo, Major League Baseball announced on Tuesday, marking the second time the two American League West foes have squared off at the Tokyo Dome to begin a regular season.

The clubs will play a two-game series on March 20-21, with the games counted officially as home contests for Oakland. The Mariners and A's will also play two exhibition games each against Japanese teams on March 17-18 in doubleheaders at the Tokyo Dome.

MLB has opened its season in Tokyo four previous times. Oakland and Seattle also met in the last Opening Series in Tokyo in 2012, with the two teams splitting the two games.

"The trip we had in '12 couldn't have been better," said A's manager Bob Melvin, who was a first-year skipper for Oakland that season with a club that won the American League West. "For a team that had a lot of guys who had not played together before, not only culturally, is it incredible with the chance to learn about Japanese baseball, but you bond together with your families.

"It ended up being a great trip for us not only as a life experience but bringing our team together. And we ended up having a really good year that year, so I don't know how we could start a season better. Everybody had so much fun and we're looking forward to it."

The Mariners have only four players left from their 2012 club, including Ichiro Suzuki. But those who went have quickly convinced the newcomers of the benefits of the journey.

"It was awesome," said third baseman Kyle Seager, who was in his first full season in the Majors that year. "The city was amazing and unbelievably clean. It was a really cool trip and I'm really excited to go back. I'll probably enjoy it more this time and not be so nervous. In this life, you only get so many opportunities to do something special and this is one of those."

"I've talked to guys who played over there and they love the culture and how much they love baseball," said Mariners catcher Mike Zunino. "It's cool to see how fan bases around the world enjoy the game."

This will be the eighth time MLB has played its season opener internationally, having opened in Monterrey, Mexico (1999); Tokyo (2000, '04, '08, '12); San Juan, Puerto Rico ('01); and Sydney, Australia ('14).

"The Oakland Athletics are proud to once again take part in the Japan Opening Series," said A's president Dave Kaval. "We are honored to represent Major League Baseball during this special event. Japan has incredible baseball fans, and we look forward to returning to Tokyo to help promote our sport."

In addition, MLB will renew its All-Star Tour with Nippon Professional Baseball with six games across Japan from Nov. 8-15.

"Major League Baseball is thrilled to return to Japan for the 2018 All-Star Tour this fall and for the 2019 Japan Opening Series next March," said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. "The renewal of the All-Star Tour gives MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball an outstanding opportunity to continue a longstanding tradition that showcases the best of our game for our many fans across Japan, as well as build up excitement for the 2019 Opening Series between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics.

"The city of Tokyo offers a terrific backdrop for the Opening Series, and we look forward to once again bringing Major League games to the Japanese fans as we celebrate our shared love of baseball."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners