Sunday, March 18, 2007

Baseball May Play In Australia, Korea, Taiwan In 2008, 2009

Major League Baseball may play regular-season games in Australia, South Korea or Taiwan in 2008 or 2009, the sport's top international official said. Baseball has received a proposal to play in Australia and would like to play regular-season or exhibition games in countries that haven't hosted them, said Paul Archey, baseball's senior vice president of international business operations. The New York Yankees have asked to play the first major-league game in China, which is building a baseball stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympics. ``We want to be more aggressive about playing internationally,'' Archey said. ``That's a big part of our strategy.'' Baseball is expanding its international presence as more players born outside the U.S. have joined big-league clubs. The sport staged the inaugural World Baseball Classic last year with major leaguers playing for teams from 16 countries. Baseball last played regular-season games away from North America in 2004 when the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays opened the season in Japan.About 27 percent of players on opening-day rosters last year were born outside the U.S., up from 17 percent in 1996. U.S. clubs tap the Dominican Republic and Latin America for talent and have committed more resources to Asia. Japan had nine players on rosters in 2006, Korea had five, Taiwan three and Australia two. Japan's Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners was the American League Most Valuable Player when he joined the major leagues in 2001 and has been an All-Star every year since. Hideki Matsui, also of Japan, is a two-time All-Star with the Yankees, and teammate Chien-Ming Wang of Taiwan emerged as an All-Star pitcher last year. The Red Sox paid $103 million to bring Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to Boston for six years, and it cost the Yankees $50 million to get pitcher Kei Igawa, also of Japan. New York and Boston officials have expressed interest in playing in China and are two candidates to play games overseas, Archey said. Europe is also an option for games, though baseball has yet to find a suitable stadium. Baseball fields in the Netherlands and Italy don't have enough seating or amenities needed to hold major-league games, Archey said. ``We are still pursuing it,'' he said.