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10 key dates on the 2019 MLB schedule

Lindsey Wasson / Getty Images Sport / Getty

With MLB releasing the schedule for the 2019 season Wednesday, here are 10 dates baseball fans will want to circle on their calendars.

March 20-21 - MLB - and maybe Ichiro - returns to Japan

Before the 2019 season's official Opening Day on March 28, the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics will head across the Pacific Ocean for a two-game series at Japan's Tokyo Dome, seven years after the AL West rivals split a two-game series at the venue to kick off the 2012 season.

Both contests are listed as Athletics home games, but the "home" team will struggle to gain the favor of the locals if Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki steps out of the team's front office and back into the batter's box. Ichiro's possible return for the series has been termed a "strong likelihood" by Seattle management.

March 28 - Opening Day

The official launch of the MLB season continues to creep into March. 2019's Opening Day will go down as the earliest league-wide start date ever, breaking the previous mark of March 29.

Opening Day's never managed to feature all 30 teams; that was the plan to start the 2018 campaign, but poor weather forced two of the games to be rescheduled. The league will have a shot at the achievement in 2019, though the Twins' March 28 game in Minneapolis presents one potential obstacle.

June 13 - Royals host Tigers in Omaha

Are you an AL Central fan who has never had cause to visit Nebraska? You're in luck! The Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers are scheduled to face off at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha to coincide with the start of the College World Series (June 15-27).

June 21-23 - Prince Albert's long-awaited return to St. Louis

It's hard to believe, but Los Angeles Angels veteran Albert Pujols has yet to play in St. Louis since leaving the Cardinals organization after the 2011 season. The 38-year-old has faced his former team six times, but always at Angel Stadium. In all likelihood, this June series offers the final opportunity for the Cardinals faithful to salute the future Hall of Famer.

June 29 - Let's play 2

The weather in San Francisco rarely threatens the regularly scheduled programming at AT&T Park. As such, Giants fans rarely enjoy an opportunity to take in a doubleheader at home. The team decided to take the decision out of Mother Nature's hands and scheduled two games against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers on June 29, just the second doubleheader in San Francisco since 2006.

June 29-30 - Yankees, Red Sox take rivalry to London

It's fitting that one of sports' most storied rivalries will continue to make baseball history in one of the world's most historic cities. The Boston Red Sox will host the New York Yankees for the inaugural MLB London Series at the end of June. English soccer club West Ham United's home field, London Stadium, will serve as the battleground for MLB's first-ever game in Europe.

July 9 - Cleveland hosts All-Star Game

The Cleveland Indians will welcome the league to Progressive Field for the All-Star festivities for the first time since 1997. The spectacle marks the club's record-breaking sixth time hosting the event.

Aug. 18 - Cubs, Pirates to play in Little League Classic

The pros will return to Williamsport, Penn., on Aug. 18 for the third edition of the Little League Classic. The Pittsburgh Pirates, victors in the inaugural event, will return to BB&T Ballpark at Historic Bowman Field to play the Chicago Cubs. The games in Omaha and Williamsport comprise the new Summer Series.

Aug. 23-25 - There's no place like home (except Seattle?)

The Toronto Blue Jays' status as Canada's lone MLB club affords them wide-reaching, coast-to-coast popularity in the Great White North. In recent years, the team's West Coast fans have traveled exceptionally well. Safeco Field may as well be a neutral site.

Sept. 10-12 - Dodgers at Orioles = Manny in Maryland?

If the Dodgers retain the services of free-agent superstar Manny Machado this winter, Baltimore Orioles fans will want to keep this late-season series circled on their calendars. The rebuilding Orioles may have little to play for at that late juncture, but welcoming back their former four-time All-Star will be worth the price of admission.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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