MLB is continuing to make good on its goal of bringing baseball to new countries by scheduling the return of MLB baseball to Monterrey into its 2019 MLB schedule.
Rob Manfred, with all his controversial decisions, is pioneering a movement to increase baseball’s popularity outside of the United States. The three series will feature the Colorado Rockies vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cincinnati Reds vs. the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels vs. the Houston Astros. MLB has made its mark south of the border in the past, but with the confirmation of three series in Monterrey in the 2019 MLB schedule, MLB abroad looks to begin appearing on a near-annual basis.
The Los Angeles Dodgers made history earlier this year when they threw the franchise’s first combined no-hitter against the San Diego Padres in Mexico earlier this season. Walker Buehler started the game and threw six innings with nine strikeouts. It was the first MLB series played outside of the United States or Canada since the Dodgers took on the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sidney, Australia in Spring Training in 2014.
Rob Manfred and MLB are looking to push their popularity beyond the confines of the nations in which their home teams reside, but can it stick?
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The push abroad
The revisits to Monterrey throughout the MLB season may prove to be somewhat of a testing ground to add a 31st or 32nd team to MLB. At least to Rob Manfred, that seems to be the end game: “That is the kind of experiment that puts you in a better position to make a judgment as to whether you have a market that could sustain an 81-game season and a Major League team,” Manfred told MLB.com.
If attendance is any indicator to Mr. Manfred and his colleagues, the signs for a MLB team in Mexico are looking good. Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey, where the Dodgers and Padres squared off in 2018, sold out all of its 22,061 seats for the entire three game series. Granted, Mexican baseball fans rarely have the opportunity to see MLB games in their home country so it isn’t an event that could easily be replicated. But if fans turned out in such high numbers just to see Major League Baseball, there’s reason to believe the turn out could be even greater for a hometown team.
Canadian baseball teams have been integral to MLB since 1969. Almost half a century later, it might be time for Mexican baseball teams to join MLB, too. Integrating more games in Mexico into the MLB schedule is a significant part.