PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 07: Starting pitcher Yu Darvish #11 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the San Diego Padres during the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 7, 2012 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Japan is known for its quality professsional baseball, there's no doubt about it.
But let's be real, baseball doesn't get any bigger or any better than Major League Baseball, which is why Japan's best have traditionally given it a go in the United States to try to prove their greatness. Some fail, others succeed.
Tonight's series opener between the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners will possibly be the biggest chapter in the history of Japanese baseball, at least stateside, when new Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish makes his MLB debut after years of dominance in Japan. Oh, and he'll be pitching to arguably the greatest hitter to ever come out of Japan, and maybe one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, regardless of league, Ichiro Suzuki.
Ichiro has been moved to No. 3 in the Mariners lineup, which is kind of a buzzkill considering the first pitch Yu throws in his big-league career could've been to Ichiro if this would have been any other year when Ichiro hit leadoff for the Mariners. But even still, it'll be quite the spectacle when Ichiro steps into the box to face Yu as the hundreds of assembled Japanese media will be going crazy and flash bulbs will undoubtedly be popping.
But it's not just those two that will make the Japanese interest in tonight's game.
The Rangers have relief pitcher Koji Uehara, who made his 2012 debut on Sunday night and looked good after struggling through his half-season Rangers tenure in 2011. They also have reliever Yoshi Tateyama, who is rehabbing on the DL right now but is with the big-league club and will be in attendance tonight.
The Mariners have pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and infielder Munenori Kawasaki, bringing the grand total to six Japanese players taking part in this series.
But make no mistake, all eyes will be on Yu tonight as he makes his debut. That's where the interest is. And Ichiro being one of the batters he'll try to get out only adds to the flavor. It'll be a spectacle, so soak it in and enjoy it.