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Ichiro will start in right field for Mariners in Japan Series

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The Mariners and Athletics are in Japan right now in the runup to this week’s two-game regular season series in the Tokyo Dome. The clubs have been playing exhibitions against Japanese teams prior to Wednesday and Thursday’s official contests.

As you likely know, Ichiro — who kinda but not really retired last season — went to camp with the Mariners this year and is on their roster. The unstated but assumed idea is that he will play the two games in Tokyo and then retire, having given a fitting sendoff from both the fans from his native country and the fans for the team with which he had his greatest triumphs in one fell swoop. It’d be hard to script that any better.

Part of that script is going to plan: Mariners manager Scott Servais confirmed today Ichiro Suzuki will be in the starting lineup against the Athletics, likely starting in right field. That’ll be a good reason to wake up at 5:30AM and watch the Japan Series games on ESPN this week.

I wonder, though, what might happen if he rakes in those two games. He, as always, has played it close to the vest, so we don’t know his intentions, but the Mariners, as you know, aren’t going anywhere this year as they rebuild. So it’s not like even a 45-year-old Ichiro would be a drag on their 2019 prospects if he, in fact, wants to play some more.

Can he play? I dunno. Based on what we saw of him last year and the year before, the bat just isn’t there anymore. But based on (a) his physical conditioning; and (b) his arm, it’s not necessarily the case that he’s completely done. I mean, check out this highlight from today’s exhibition game. The guy still has quite the hose:

Straight-away center field will be 385 feet at London Stadium

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Marley Rivera of ESPN has a story about some of the on-field and in-game entertainment, as well as some aspects of the field conditions, for this weekend’s London Series.

The fun stuff: a mascot race, not unlike the Sausage Race at Miller Park or the President’s race at Nationals Park. The mascots for London: Winston Churchill, Freddie Mercury, Henry VIII and the Loch Ness Monster. I suppose that’s OK but, frankly, I’d go with Roger Bannister, Shakespeare, Charles Darwin and Guy Fawkes. Of course no one asks me these things.

There will also be a “Beat the Streak”-style race which had better use the theme to “Chariots of Fire” or else what the heck are we even doing here.

They’ve also taught ushers and various volunteers who will be on-site to sing “Take me out to the ballgame,” which is a pretty good idea given how important that is to baseball. As a cultural exchange, I think some major league team should start using “Vindaloo” by Fat Les during the seventh inning stretch here. It’s a banger. It also seems to capture England a bit more accurately than, say, “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown.”

That’s all good fun I suppose. But here’s some stuff that actually affects the game:

The end result will have some interesting dimensions. The field will be 330 feet down each foul line, and it will have a distance of 385 feet to center field, which will feature a 16-foot wall. Cook also said it would have an expanded, “Oakland-like” foul territory, referencing the Athletics’ Oakland Coliseum expanse.

Those dimensions are unavoidable given that the square peg that is a baseball field is being shoved into the round hole that is a soccer stadium. As Murray Cook, MLB’s senior field coordinator tells Rivera, that sort of thing, while perhaps less than ideal, is at least in keeping with baseball’s strong tradition of irregular field conditions. It will, however, be one of the shortest dead center distances in baseball history.

Oh, and then there’s this:

Protective netting was also an important issue addressed when building the ballpark, with Cook stressing that his team has implemented netting that “is the largest you’ll ever see in any major league ballpark.”

[Craig makes a mental note to bookmark this for the next time MLB says it won’t mandate extended netting in the U.S. because doing so is too difficult]