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MLB is Ramping Up Neutral Site Games

MLB has played a lot of exhibition games in places like Puerto Rico, Japan, and Australia. They have a lot more places targeted in the future but for now Williamsport, PA will be the next game up.

The Phillies and Mets will meet for a Sunday in-season game. Tickets aren’t available to the masses, which is good, considering the field only seats 2,366.

“It’s part of the commissioner’s goal to bring the game here this year. As part of Little League and growing the game. It’s part of that initiative,” said Murray Cook, BrightView President and MLB Field and Stadium Consultant.

“It’s taking the game to other places. The commissioner has a plan to grow the game in the U.S. and other countries and around the world. Next year we’re playing in Omaha, Nebraska, Opening Day in Japan on the books. I’ve worked on the two in Fort Bragg,” he added. “You see hockey and football doing it, playing in unique places. Expanding the game to bring in new fans who never get a chance to go to a major league game. It’s for the kids and the families. Some aren’t open to the public per se.”

The Yankees and Red Sox will make history in London in 2019.

“The London game will be played in “London Stadium” the Olympic Stadium (Yankees-Red Sox). That’s north of London. That’s on the 29th and 30th of June next year. We’re still working on the seating manifest and decide how many seats, because of the orientation of the ballpark and how we can fit it in and create additional seats within the structure. So, a specific number isn’t out there yet. I know it seats between 50-55,000. It may be a little more or a little less,” Cook added.

To date the largest game, they’ve played happened in Los Angeles.

“If you recall they played in the LA Coliseum, an exhibition game in 2008. The Dodgers played there, and they drew a crowd of 100,000. So far, I haven’t heard much. If they hear of a place and want to play there, I’ll go and take a look at it and see if it’ll work.”

Back in 1934, MLB did some barnstorming games in Japan. Babe Ruth played there and that really sparked professional baseball in that country.

Here’s the history on that:

Babe’s 1934 Barnstorming Trip to Japan

MLB played in Japan as recently as 2012 in Tokyo. The A’s and Mariners will open the season in the Tokyo Dome in 2019 to open the season. That seats 57,000. MLB is interested in sharing the game with potential new fans and spectators and isn’t as focused on record-setting attendance that they could achieve in some bigger places.

“That’s an interesting analogy. Major League Baseball has been playing internationally for years. I remember going over to the All-Star tour several years ago and the Fenway Park/Yankee Stadium version of Japan (Koshien stadium) one of their pride and joys and when you walk in there’s a huge plaque of the time Babe Ruth played there,” Cook said with some excitement in his voice. “Just some really cool stuff. We played in Mexico this past year. We’re going back again. The All-Star tour happens again in November in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagoya.”

When choosing a site, Cook has a list he follows.

“The baseball field fit dimension-wise. That’s the first one. From there you get into a lot of other logistics. Then you get into the dynamics of how financially feasible it is,” Cook revealed. “As an example, in Sydney, they had huge foul territory, similar to Oakland. Just the fact that you were playing in an oval, you couldn’t build the dugouts out. Olympic Stadium in London the ballpark will have a bit more foul territory.”

Cook wouldn’t reveal what’s next, but we got into a conversation about some of the domes they’ve played in and based on the weather factor, I personally think they’ll be playing in more of them.

“We played the WBC in Korea in their dome. Japan, we play in the Tokyo Dome. They have a lot of domes over there. We look at all the variables and get the place that makes sense.”

Major League Baseball is expanding their footprint and that’s smart. There is some talk that the game is boring, and the league has addressed that. Playing in these kinds of locations does add some excitement from a viewing standpoint. One of the best aspects of baseball is the fact that no two stadiums are 100% identical.

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