One thing we know for sure: Shohei Ohtani regular season tour with the Dodgers will be a little less secretive than his free agency tour this offseason.
Tickets always sell well there — the Dodgers ranked first in attendance in baseball last year, selling more than 568,000 more than the second-place Yankees — but there might not be an empty seat in the stadium all year, not with Ohtani taking at-bats.
Of course, he’ll be a draw on the road, too. Pretty much every game he plays in will be must-see baseball. Some will be a bit more intriguing than others.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 11 regular-season series we’re most looking forward to this season.
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March 20-21 vs. Padres in Seoul, South Korea
Maybe it’s fitting that the player on track to become the greatest Asian-born MLB player — that’s still Ichiro for now, right? — plays his first game after the free agency decision that attracted global interest in Asia. This series, which was announced last July but has been in the works for some time, are the first MLB regular-season games ever to be played in Korea.
Tickets will be in high demand, especially considering that the seating capacity at Gocheok Sky Dome, home of the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes, is less than 17,000.
March 28-31 vs. Cardinals
This won’t be Ohtani’s first game at Dodger Stadium — his new team plays his old team in the annual Freeway Series to end the spring training schedule on March 24-25 — but it will be the official start of Ohtani’s time in a Dodgers uniform at Dodger Stadium.
And, unrelated to Ohtani, always cool to see teams wearing baseball’s classic uniforms share the field, and the Dodgers and Cardinals have two of the very best.
April 5-7 at Cubs
Feels like forever ago, but there was a time this offseason when the Cubs landing Ohtani seemed not only possible, but maybe even likely. They had made his list of seven finalists the first time around, and that was even before the DH was in the National League. That’s how much he was intrigued about possibly playing at Wrigley Field, the thought went. And now the Cubs are serious about winning — why else would they have paid manager Craig Counsell all that money? — and Ohtani seemed like a logical step forward.
Instead, he signed with the Dodgers, but Cubs fans won’t have to wait long to see Ohtani suit up at Wrigley Field wearing blue. Just won’t be the shade of blue they’d hoped for. This will, by the way, be Ohtani’s first-ever game at the friendly confines.
April 26-28 at Blue Jays
Finally, Ohtani will actually be on a plane to Toronto.
The Dodgers haven’t played in Toronto since way back in the 2016 season, but of course they’ll make a first-month visit to compete against the Blue Jays in 2023. Will Canadian baseball fans have gotten over the so-close disappointment by then? Probably not, and even the ones who have will find the bandaids ripped off when he steps to the plate wearing the wrong shade of blue.
Will there be boos? Polite cheers (because it wasn’t his fault all that drama went down) maybe? Either way, you know we’ll all be watching.
May 13-15 at Giants
This won’t be Ohtani’s first time to play the rival Giants as a Dodger — the teams face off in the second series of the season, at Dodger Stadium — but it will be the first chance for the passionate fans in San Francisco to let Ohtani know what it’s like to be part of a real baseball rivalry, which is something that never really happened in his time with the Angels. Sure, they had division rivals but nothing like an all-caps RIVAL, which is what he’ll experience at Oracle Park. He’s played three games there, btw, going 0-for-8 in 2020 — sans fans — and then walking in his only PA in 2021.
May 27-29 at Mets
From the moment Steve Cohen bought the Mets, fans of the franchise started dreaming about the owner with the deepest pockets in sports landing Ohtani. And even though it’s not like they were actually a serious contender this offseason, his arrival at Citi Field with the Dodgers will still be a reminder of how everything went south in 2023.
Oh, and if the Mets are struggling by late May — remember, they were two games over .500 by the end of May 2023, then everything collapsed in June (7-19) — you can bet the howling will only increase when Ohtani comes to the Big Apple.
June 7-9 at Yankees
It’s the Soto vs. Ohtani showdown at Yankee Stadium.
Should be a good time. Not as “important” as everyone from New York will make it out to be, but fun nonetheless.
June 17-20 at Rockies
It’s always fun to see the great power hitters play at Coors Field. It won’t be his first time — he has a .318 average with one homer in 22 plate appearances there — but it will be the first of many. The Dodgers wrap up their 2023 regular season in Denver, too, Sept. 27-30.
June 21-22 vs. Angels
Sept. 3-4 at Angels
The Dodgers and Angels play only four games during the regular season, two at Dodger Stadium and two at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, and they both figure to be emotional contests for Ohtani, who seemed to genuinely enjoy everything about playing for the Angels (except all the losing). He was beloved by the fans, and the feeling was reciprocated.
These games won’t be the first time he faces off against his former team. The Dodgers and Angels play Feb. 24 and March 5, then finish the spring schedule with their annual Freeway Series — March 24-25 at Dodger Stadium, March 26 in Anaheim. And, yes, those three games are technically spring training games despite the fact they will have played regular-season games already, the pair vs. the Padres in South Korea.
Sept. 13-16 at Braves
Admit it, you were intrigued by the idea of plugging Ohtani into that Atlanta lineup. It’s OK. That group could have done amazing things. Imagine …
1. Ronald Acuña Jr.
2. Shohei Ohtani
3. Austin Riley
4. Matt Olson
5. Ozzie Albies
6. Marcel Ozuna
7. Sean Murphy/Travis d’Arnaud
8. Jarred Kelenic
9. Orlando Arcia
Sheesh. Still, will be fun to see Ohtani and Acuña, the two 2023 MVPs, face off four games in a row. It’ll actually be the second series between the NL’s two best teams — that’s what is expected, at least — because the Braves visit L.A. for three May 3-5.
Source : ESPN.com