Selig thrilled with Far East events
Looks to Europe after games in Asia more than expected
TOKYO -- Commissioner Bud Selig would only be human if he was a little weary after traveling to both Beijing and Tokyo in the last couple of weeks. However, Selig is running on adrenaline these days. His dreams of globalizing the game are coming to life right in front of him.
As Selig watched the Red Sox and A's kick off the 2008 season at Tokyo Dome on Tuesday, he was enthused with where things are from an internationalization standpoint.
"You know, this is our third time here, and not only do you feel that you're watching history in the making, but we're doing what we really set out to do," said Selig. "The game has never been more popular than it is in the United States today. Our goal now is to take that popularity and make it worldwide. I felt this way in Beijing last weekend, and I feel that way now.
"I got up this morning, and as tired as I was -- and I don't mind telling you I was; tired isn't even the word today -- I was excited. Coming out here tonight and watching the Red Sox and the A's, it's really just remarkable. This could not have worked out any better."
Selig doesn't plan on stopping at the Far East when it comes down to international season openers.
"We have the World Baseball Classic next year, so that will take precedent," he said. "But, look, I'd like to open in Europe. I definitely want to go to Europe. We'll go other places. We need to really step up the pace here, and we'll be back here. This is a really remarkable market, and they are enjoying this so much. Although today, I had an interesting experience at the hotel. I had to pinch myself. I thought I was in Boston. All I saw was Red Sox paraphernalia all over the hotel. This is great."
The Commissioner is doing more in Japan than just watching baseball games. Along with the Red Sox and A's, he was a guest of U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer, a former president of the Texas Rangers, at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Selig will speak at a local university and give a speech to a business group.
The Red Sox and A's opened the 2008 season with a thrilling contest, which Boston won in 10 innings. Selig is looking forward to more thrills next spring with the second World Baseball Classic, details of which were unveiled on Monday.
"I'm excited about it," said Selig. "Last time, there was so much trepidation, people were worried about players getting hurt and so on and so forth, and it turns out to be spectacular. Players are anxious to play in it this time. That's all you hear: 'Boy, I hope I play in it next year.' It's a centerpiece of our whole internationalization process, so I'm excited."
On the other end of the spectrum, there is the continued healing in response to the Mitchell Report. Will there be any discipline for players named?
"I'm still reviewing it on a case-by-case basis," Selig said. "There isn't really anything new on that. We're in very intense negotiations on implementing all the Mitchell Report recommendations, that's very important to me. As I've said tonight, we have the toughest testing program in sports, but we're going to go beyond that. I'm really satisfied that once we're done with all the recommendations, anybody who is fair about it will say, 'These people have done everything they could have done and a lot more.' "
Selig was still glowing about the trip to Beijing, where the Dodgers and Padres played exhibition games.
"Beijing was an amazing experience," he said during an in-game interview with ESPN2 broadcasters Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips. "I went there with significant trepidation because we didn't know what to expect, and it was an amazing experience. There's no doubt in my mind that five years from now, 10 years from now, people will say it all started with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres."
Baseball, according to Selig, is in a very good place.
"The sport is more popular today than it's ever been," he told Thorne and Phillips. "We're at numbers today that none of us could have dreamed a decade ago. We're going to draw this year between 80 million and 81 million people. Our gross revenues this year will be $6.5 billion. The interest in the sport is just awesome. Fortunately, the business of the sport is strong, and as a result, we have more competitive balance. I think every division will have a really remarkably good race, in some cases, maybe four or five teams."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.