Major League Baseball announced the full list of ceremonial first-pitch participants for the upcoming Japan Series involving the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics set to take place between March 17-21.
Hall of Famers Ken Griffey Jr. and Rickey Henderson will stand in the batter's box for the regular-season openers between the Mariners and Athletics on March 20 and 21, respectively.
Masanori Murakami, the first Japanese-born MLB player, will throw out the first pitch of an exhibition contest between the A's and the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters on March 17.
Here's the full list:
|March 17||Yomiuri Giants vs. Seattle Mariners||Masumi Kuwata||N/A||N/A|
|March 17||Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters vs. Oakland Athletics||Masanori Murakami||N/A||N/A|
|March 18||Yomiuri Giants vs. Seattle Mariners||Mandy Sekiguchi||N/A||N/A|
|March 20||Oakland Athletics vs. Seattle Mariners||Kazuhiro Sasaki||Kenji Johjima||Rickey Henderson|
|March 21||Oakland Athletics vs. Seattle Mariners||Keiichi Yabu||Akinori Iwamura||Ken Griffey Jr.|
Masumi Kuwata spent 20 seasons as a pitcher with the Yomiuri Giants before signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a 39-year-old in 2007. Over two decades in Nippon Professional Baseball, the right-hander posted a 173-141 record with a 3.55 ERA.
Masanori Murakami, a left-handed pitcher, became the first Japanese player to make the sojourn to MLB, debuting with the San Francisco Giants as a 20-year-old in 1964. Murakami returned to NPB for the 1966 season and no Japanese player would move stateside again until Hideo Nomo did so three decades later.
Mandy Sekiguchi is a member of Exile, a 19-member musical group, as well as the spinoff group Generations.
Kazuhiro Sasaki, a right-hander, spent 10 years with Yokohama before signing with the Mariners in 2000. Over a four-season span in Seattle, Sasaki won American League Rookie of the Year and made two All-Star appearances. Receiving his pitch on the regular-season opener will be Kenji Johjima, a catcher who also spent four seasons with the Mariners from 2006-09.
For that ceremonial first pitch, MLB's all-time stolen base king will stand in the box. Henderson's 25-year career famously began in Oakland, where he'd spend 14 seasons.
In the finale, Keiichi Yabu will throw out the first pitch to Akinori Iwamura. Yabu, a right-hander, spent one season with the A's as a 36-year-old in 2005, posting a 4.50 ERA in 40 games out of the bullpen. Iwamura's four-year MLB career was mainly spent with the Tampa Bay Rays but was punctuated by a brief 10-game stint with the Athletics, where he played third base.
Opposing that battery will be Griffey, who was inducted into Cooperstown during the summer of 2016 after memorably earning 99.3 percent of the vote - setting a record that has since been broken by Mariano Rivera.