Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Updated: March 19, 11:04 AM ET
Japan's baseball commissioner: It's 'unfortunate'
TOKYO -- To many Japanese, tensions between the United
States and Iraq have seemed a distant storm. On Wednesday,
thousands of baseball fans here got a taste of it when a
long-awaited two-game series between Oakland and Seattle was
"I find it extremely unfortunate, but it's because of war and
there is little we can do," Japan's baseball commissioner,
Hiromori Kawashima, said.
"I understand they wanted to be careful because of uncertainty
involving a war," he added. "I heard major league officials held
discussions with officials at the White House and other related
organizations until the last minute."
The Mariners and Athletics were to open the season March 25-26
at the Tokyo Dome.
"It can't be helped,'' said Moriyoshi Kaneko, a fishmonger in
Tokyo. "I guess the threat of terrorism is frightening."
The cancellation of the Mariners' visit was especially
disappointing because the team features Japanese star Ichiro Suzuki
and pitchers Kazuhiro Sasaki and Shigetoshi Hasegawa. The series
would have been the first time Mariners owner Hiroshi Yamauchi, who
lives in Japan, saw his team play.
"Japanese baseball fans who were looking forward to the event
must find it extremely disappointing," Kawashima said.
"I like Ichiro, so I wanted him to come," said Akinori
Yoshihiro, a 20-year-old college student. "All the good players in
Japan have gone to the States."
Tokyo Dome officials said the two opening games at the dome were
sold out. A capacity crowd at the Tokyo Dome is about 55,000.
The teams also scheduled exhibition games against three top
Japanese professional teams: the Yomiuri Giants, Daiei Hawks and
"It is a big disappointment, and it will cause us financial
loss," said Yuichi Sato, a dome spokesman. "But we don't yet know
Yoshiaki Hotaka, a spokesman for the Yomiuri newspaper
sponsoring the games, said 200,000 tickets had been sold overall,
and fans will be refunded.
"This was to be the first homecoming games for Ichiro and
Sasaki," said Takao Ouchi, a Yomiuri executive in charge of the
event. "We hope we can hold these games at the soonest possible
The major leagues held their first season-opening games in Japan
in 2000 when the New York Mets played the Chicago Cubs.
"It was probably best to cancel the games before everyone got
to Japan," Hasegawa was quoted as saying by Japan's public
television network, NHK. "It's disappointing."