Major League Baseball to Open 2024 in South Korea, Return to Mexico City
Baseball was first dubbed America’s national pastime back in 1856 by the New York Mercury. In the years since then, the game has grown well beyond the borders of the United States, and Major League Baseball is adding Seoul, South Korea, to its list of international stops next season. They’ve also announced that the league will return to Mexico City in 2024.
Seoul will host the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres on March 20 and 21, marking the league’s first regular season games in South Korea, and the ninth time they have opened up a regular season internationally. The last time it happened was 2019, when the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s opened the season in Tokyo, Japan.
South Korea is an obvious addition to the international history of Major League Baseball games. The KBO League, the primary professional baseball league in South Korea, was created in 1982, and has 10 teams that play 144 games each. There are also five current Major Leaguers from South Korea, including Hyun-Jin Ryu, an All-Star in 2019 with the Dodgers.
The Dodgers were also the home of the first South Korean-born Major League Baseball player, Chan-Ho Park. He won 124 games during his MLB career, the most of any Asian-born player in history.
Ha-Seong Kim, an infielder with the Padres, starred in the KBO from 2014 to 2020 with the Nexen/Kiwoon Heroes. As a shortstop for the Heroes, he won the KBO League Golden Glove Award three times.
Returning to Mexico
The first time MLB played a regular season outside the United States or Canada, it was in Monterrey, Mexico, in 1996. Fernando Valenzuela was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch, and then he started on the mound for the Padres. San Diego beat the New York Mets, 15-10.
A total of 13 regular season games have been played in Mexico, with the Padres and San Francisco Giants playing a pair in Mexico City in April. The two games scheduled for next season will be between the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies on April 27 and 28, also in Mexico City.
The Rockies were a part of MLB’s second trip to Mexico when they beat the Padres in Monterrey in 1999.
Baseball has been popular in Mexico since the 1880s, and Mexico’s current top professional league will celebrate its 100th season of play next season. The first Mexican-born MLB player was Baldomero Alamada, who first played centerfield for the Boston Red Sox in 1933.
There were 15 Mexican-born players on MLB rosters when the 2023 opened.
More Games in London and Spring Training in Santo Domingo
The first regular season games in London took place in 2019 between the Red Sox and New York Yankees, with more than 59,000 fans in attendance for each of the two games. In June, the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals drew a total of 110,000 over two games at London Stadium.
The New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies will play in London next season on June 8 and 9.
In March, MLB will make its first trip to the Dominican Republic, when the Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays play spring training games on March 9 and 10. When the 2023 season began, there were 104 players from the Dominican Republic on MLB rosters.
“Major League Baseball is incredibly excited for this extensive slate of international games in 2024,” said Commissioner Rob Manfred. “Our efforts have produced strong enthusiasm around the globe, and we look forward to building on that foundation with returns to Mexico City and London, while also opening the season in Korea for the first time. In addition, we can’t wait to celebrate the tradition of the sport in the Dominican Republic with our visit to Santo Domingo next March.”
More than 28% of players on Opening Days rosters in 2023 were from 19 countries other than the United States.