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Games in Japan gain momentum
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12/03/2003  6:29 PM ET 
Games in Japan gain momentum
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A trio of top Major League Baseball officials met with the top brass of the Yankees on Tuesday to try and finalize a two-game, season-opening series between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays this coming March 30 and 31 in Japan's Tokyo Dome.

"The Yankees are a good possibility for opening next season in Japan," said Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer. "We should have an answer by next week."

The season-opening series in Japan would follow two days of exhibition games between the Yankees, Devil Rays and the Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tigers.

MLB had discussed with the Yankees about opening the regular season in Japan last offseason after New York signed former Yomiuri Giants star Hideki Matsui to a three-year, $21 million contract. Matsui, who narrowly missed winning this past season's American League's Rookie of the Year Award, was a three-time Most Valuable Player in the Japan's Central League and played 10 years for the Giants.

But those preliminary talks with the Yankees ended after a season-opening, two-game series between Seattle and Oakland scheduled this past March in the Tokyo Dome was moved to the U.S. because of the pending military action against Iraq. The bombing of Iraq began on the day both teams were scheduled to fly from their Spring Training camps in the Phoenix area to Tokyo.

At Tuesday's meeting in New York, the Yankees were represented by team president Randy Levine, chief operating officer Lonn Trost and general manager Brian Cashman. DuPuy, executive vice president Tim Brosnan and senior vice president Paul Archey represented MLB. Levine declined to comment about the Yankees' prospects of playing in Japan.

The first and only time MLB played regular-season games in Japan was when the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs split a two-game series in the Tokyo Dome to open the 2000 season.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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