WBSC Premier12, Olympic baseball stars in the spotlight as MLB 2022 season opens

WBSC Premier12, Olympic baseball stars in the spotlight as MLB 2022 season opens
Olympic gold medalist and WBSC Premier12 reigning MVP Seiya Suzuki (pictured above) made his much-anticipated debut going 1-for-2. Tokyo silver medalist Joe Ryan will pitch against bronze medalist Julio Rodriguez ("the future of baseball", according to the New York Times) as the Minnesota Twins host the Seattle Mariners.

The WBSC Premier12 reigning MVP Seiya Suzuki made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut going 1-for-2 as his Chicago Cubs opened with a 5-4 win against the Milwaukee Brewers. He singled to left off 2021 National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes.

Suzuki scored later in the inning. He also walked twice and struck out once.

His debut was very much anticipated. The Cubs president of baseball operations, Jed Hoyer, told the local press: "He is a power hitter who makes very good swing decisions. He is obsessive with improving."

Hoyer explained that the Cubs have been scouting Suzuki for a long time and reports confirm that "his performances have been consistent in all phases of the game."

Suzuki said through an interpreter that he is "very excited to contribute" and flattered by "the passion they put in negotiating."

He confirmed that he asked many questions about life in the US to Yu Darvish, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Shogo Akiyama. He has some worries about adjusting to the new lifestyle.

"I'm not really scared about adjusting to the game," Suzuki added. "I will start learning from my at-bats."

Suzuki helped world No. 1 Japan win the WBSC Premier12 2019 and a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani (Los Angeles Angels) revealed his talent internationally while starring as a pitcher at the WBSC inaugural Premier12.

Ohtani made history during the 2021 season, becoming the first pitcher since Babe Ruth in 1919 to make multiple starts in a season while leading the Majors in home runs. He also became the first pitcher to record at least 100 strikeouts, 10 home runs, and the first player in history with at least 20 stolen bases and 10 pitching appearances in the same season. Ohtani tossed three pitches of at least 100 miles (161 kilometres) per hour and hit a 451-foot (137 metres) home run in the same inning on 4 April 2021 against the Chicago White Sox.

Ohtani's teammate Jordon Adell represented world No. 5 United States at the Premier12 2019, together with Alec Bohn of the Philadelphia Phillies, Jacob Cronenworth of the San Diego Padres, Bobby Dalbeck and Tanner Houck of the Boston Red Sox. Teoscar Hernandez of the Toronto Blue Jays played for world No. 7 Dominican Republic at the inaugural Premier12.

After helping the Dominican Republic earn a historic bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Julio Rodriguez made the Seattle Mariners' opening day roster. The New York Times describes the 21-year-old slugger as "the future of baseball."

The Minnesota Twins named Olympic silver medalist Joe Ryan their opening day starter. The Twins will host Rodriguez and the Mariners at Target Field on Friday.

MLB announced that 275 out of the pool of 975 players on opening day rosters, including active and injured, were born in countries or territories outside the US.

The Dominican Republic again leads the Major Leagues with 99 players. Venezuela ranks second with 67 players, while Cuba places third with 23 players (tied with 2016 and 2017 for its most ever). 

Rounding out the totals are Puerto Rico (16); Mexico (13, its most since 14 in 2013); Canada (12, its most since 17 in 2013); Colombia (10, its highest total ever, eclipsing seven in 2020); Japan (7); Panama (6, its highest since seven in 2012); Curaçao (5, tied for its highest ever); Korea (4); the Bahamas (3, marking its first time ever with multiple players); Aruba (1); Australia (1); Brazil (1); Germany (1); Honduras (1); the Netherlands (1); Nicaragua (1); Taiwan (1); and the U.S. Virgin Islands (1).

New Rules

Beginning in 2022, the designated hitter will be in place in both the American and National Leagues. The MLB has also tested during Spring Training a new form of encrypted communication named PitchCom, which will be available for up to five defensive players, including the pitcher and catcher.

The rule that each extra inning begins with a runner on second base has been restored for the 2022 season. While the number of teams eligible for the postseason will increase from 10 to 12.

Last but not least, as the 2022 season starts, there will be 33 women who have some level of coaching role at the MLB of Minor League Baseball (MiLB) level.

The rise of women in senior front office positions also continued in 2021. Sara Goodrum (director of player development, Houston Astros) and Liz Benn (director of MLB operations, New York Mets) are the most recent additions.