A’s and M’s to get the season started

The start of the new baseball season can never come too quickly. While the MLB season in its full form begins next Wednesday, the Oakland A’s and Seattle Mariners are making an early start by playing two regular season games in Toyko, Japan.

Game One takes place on Wednesday 28th, with Brandon McCarthy and Felix Hernandez taking to the mound, while Game Two on Thursday 29th pits veteran Bartolo Colon against left-hander Jason Vargas.

It’s an early start to the season not simply in relation to the days the games are taking place on, but also the time of the first pitches. Fans on the west coast of America will need to get up in the small hours to follow the games live, enjoying the authentic European baseball fan experience.

For us in the UK, the games are at the unusually respectable hour of 11 a.m. (Wednesday’s game) and 10 a.m. (Thursday’s), although some of you may need to hatch a cuninng plan or two to follow the action while at work, uni or school.

Coverage options

The good news is that there are various sources of coverage to choose from to enjoy the games.

Simon Brotherton and Josh Chetwynd will renew their successful double act from last year’s World Series with live commentary on BBC radio. Wednesday’s game will be streamed in its entirety on the BBC website (for UK residents) and will also be on 5 Live Sports Extra once the day’s play in the England v Sri Lanka Test Match is over. The same approach will be used on Thursday; however judging by the way the first two days of the Test Match have gone the cricket may well have been brought to an early conclusion by then (and probably not in England’s favour), which would mean the majority or all of the second game being broadcast live on digital radio.

ESPN America will provide live TV coverage of both games, with the MLB.TV subscription service on MLB.com offering the option to watch the games live over the Internet.

Players to watch

The A’s and Mariners head into the 2012 season as the ‘other two’ in the AL West division. The Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels are the overwhelming favourites to compete for the division crown and potentially one of the two American League Wild Card spots, leaving Oakland and Seattle on the outside looking in.

Both are rebuilding with the aim of challenging their division rivals a few years down the line, but that doesn’t mean they are without exciting players right now.

Felix Hernandez is as talented a starting pitcher as you will find in the Majors and watching one of his starts is always a treat, unless you’re an opposing batter trying to get a hit off him. Ichiro Suzuki is sure to receive a hero’s welcome playing in front of his home crowd in an MLB uniform for the first time since taking his star from Japan in 2001 and making it shine even more brightly in the U.S., while the Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is about to set out on his own MLB journey after defecting from his home country to follow his dream of playing in the Majors.

The two games promise to be an entertaining appetiser, played in front of a loud and enthusiastic Japanese crowd, before the main course begins in Miami next Wednesday.

The day has come: the new baseball season is finally upon us.

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