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Mets-Cubs To Play In Japan?

The New York Mets and Chicago Cubs would open next season in Tokyo under a deal that is all but complete, several baseball officials said Tuesday.

The two games at the Tokyo Dome, March 29-30, would be the first regular-season games outside North America.

Players on the two teams have approved the trip, and the team managements also have given their permission.

"We're looking to expand the game," said Cubs' pitcher Steve Trachsel, the team's player representative. "That's the logical place to go since they already play baseball. They love baseball."

As part of the trip, the Mets and Cubs would play a total of four exhibition games in the Tokyo area on March 27-28, including at least one against the Yomiuri Giants, according to officials familiar with the negotiations, who spoke on the condition they not be identified.

After the trip, the Mets would be off until their home opener against San Diego on April 4. The Cubs would be off until an April 4 game at the St. Louis Cardinals.

"While it's probably not the most convenient thing we'll ever do, it was in our opinion the right thing to do, so we acquiesced," Cubs president Andy MacPhail said Tuesday.

MacPhail was awaiting word from the commissioner's office that the deal had been finalized. An official of the Tokyo Giants was in New York late last week for negotiations, and there were some minor issues left to settle, several major league officials said.

Baseball officials expect to make an announcement sometime this month.

The Mets did not want to talk about the trip until there is a formal announcement, team spokesman Jay Horwitz said.

Major league officials have discussed for several years the possibility of regular-season games in Japan, but some teams argued the trip would be too arduous.

"It's fine with me," Cubs first baseman Mark Grace said. "It's definitely a long way to go, but I've been there before. It was a decent experience, so I don't mind."

Tokyo is nearly 7,400 miles from West Palm Beach, Fla., the major airport nearest the Mets' spring training camp in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The Cubs would travel from the Phoenix area.

"Sometimes you get the opportunity to see if you're willing to do what you talk about," MacPhail said.

Seattle originally proposed the idea for the 1995 season, but that was scuttled because of the 7 1/2-month strike. When talk was revived last spring, St. Louis was the first choice of the commissioner's office as the Mets' opponent but declined.

Home run king Mark McGwire, who would have been the chieattraction, was against the idea, saying: "Major league baseball belongs in the United States. The Japanese have Japanese baseball, so there's no reason for us to go over there."

The commissioner's office then turned to the Cubs, popular in Japan because of Sammy Sosa.

This year, baseball opened the season outside the United States and Canada for the first time, with San Diego playing the Colorado Rockies in Monterrey, Mexico.

In the only other regular-season games outside the United States and Canada, the Padres and Mets played a three-game series in Monterrey in 1997.

The NBA will be playing regular-season games in Japan for the fifth time when the Minnesota Timberwolves and San Antonio Spurs meet at the Tokyo Dome on Nov. 6-7.

In the NHL, the Calgary Flames played the San Jose Sharks last October in a two-game series, the league's second regular-season trip to Japan.

The NFL has never played a regular-season game outside the United States but has played numerous exhibitions.

©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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