The Cubs and Mets made baseball history in March of 2000 playing a two-game series in Tokyo, Japan. It marked the first time major league baseball opened the season outside of North America.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Mets manager Bobby Valentine, who had previously skippered the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1995 (he would later return to manage the Marines from 2004-2009).
Mike Piazza was the other star attraction for the Mets, but both Metropolitans paled in comparison to the excitement surrounding the arrival of Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa.
Sosa, like Valentine, was also making a return visit to Japan. He had previously headlined an MLB All-Star cast that toured Japan following the 1998 season–when Sosa was fresh off his thrilling home run chase with Mark McGwire.
Sosa’s glowing smile was plastered on posters that covered Tokyo hyping the series on subway signs and store front windows.
After an 18-hour flight from spring training in Mesa, Arizona, the Cubs settled in for two exhibition games against the Tokyo Giants and Seibu Lions. Then it was time to face the Mets on March 29.