For baseball fans who have agonized over the past months without the nation’s pastime, it is time to rejoice: The season has begun.
The Los Angeles Dodgers organization has confirmed to NBC News that for the first time in its history, pitchers and catchers will report for spring training in Phoenix on Friday, two days ahead of Super Bowl Sunday.
This is widely believed to be the first time the date for pitchers and catchers reporting is before the Super Bowl. While Friday is not the earliest that the Dodgers have ever started their spring season — that was Feb. 8, 2014, prior to opening the season in Sydney, when the Super Bowl was played Feb. 2 in East Rutherford, New Jersey — but it does signify a shift in timing between MLB starting and the NFL season ending.
Back in 2021, the NFL announced the new 17-game season, pushing the Super Bowl later into February than ever before. That announcement led to many reports that the Super Bowl could eventually be pushed to President Day’s weekend, sparking fierce debates and online petitions from fans who want that Monday off. With spring training getting earlier each season and the Super Bowl going into mid-February, it now appears that the crossover is here to stay.
With the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres set to open their seasons early in Seoul, South Korea, many of their players will have to watch Sunday’s big game from their respective training camps. The Padres told NBC News that this is the earliest report date in franchise history, with their report date for pitchers and catchers set for Sunday.
MLB announced last year that the 2024 season would open in Seoul on March 20, “featuring the Dodgers and Padres — two franchises with a tradition of South Korean players — will mark the ninth international opener outside the 50 United States and Canada in Major League history.”
Dubbed the MLB World Tour, it aims at “an historic slate of games that will bring MLB teams and players to the league’s global fan base.”
Most notably making the trip to Seoul will one of the newest Dodgers, two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who broke records in the off-season signing the biggest free-agent deal in baseball history.
The 10-year, $700 million signing is the most lucrative contract the sport has ever seen, topping Mike Trout’s 12-year, $426.5 million agreement with the Los Angeles Angels. Ohtani, still recovering from elbow surgery last fall, is not expected to pitch this season but could be the designated hitter on opening day in March, according to ESPN.
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