It was Opening Early Morning, a week before Opening Day.
The Seattle Mariners and Oakland A's got the Major League Baseball season started Wednesday in Tokyo with a game that started at 5:36 a.m. EDT (6:36 p.m. local) and was won by the Mariners, 9-7.
It was the earliest opening day ever, by the calendar, and it happened while most fans in North America were still asleep.
The highlight of the occasion was the homecoming reception for Japanese legend Ichiro Suzuki, who started in right field for the Mariners. A packed crowd of 45,787 at the Tokyo Dome sent cheers, chants and camera flashes bounding around the park, where signs and Ichiro jerseys were in abundance. The 45-year-old -- he became second-oldest position player to start an opener in history -- took his spot in right field to begin the bottom of the fourth inning then was pulled to another huge ovation.
Batting ninth, the all-time international hits leader walked and popped up in two plate appearances. Ichiro will play in the series finale Thursday, though likely not as a starter.
“I understand everybody wants to see him go all nine innings," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We’re trying to do the best thing for the team and Ichiro understands.”
Domingo Santana hit a grand slam in the third inning to lead the Mariners. Tim Beckham also homered for the Mariners, and Khris Davis, Stephen Piscotty and Matt Chapman connected for the A’s.
The other 28 teams open their seasons on March 28.