Dodgers to capitalize on Shohei Ohtani/Yoshinobu Yamamoto mania, open 2025 in Japan?

Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan relief pitcher Shohei Ohtani (16) celebrates after
Mar 21, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; Japan relief pitcher Shohei Ohtani (16) celebrates after / Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers landed in Seoul, South Korea on Friday morning to hordes of fans waiting for them at Incheon Airport. They begin a four-game sprint on Saturday, with an exhibition game against the Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO before taking on Team Korea on March 18. The Seoul Series kicks off on March 20 at 3:05 AM PST, marking the official opening to the Dodgers' 2024 season.

The reception the Dodgers got upon their arrival in Korea was undeniably enthusiastic — everyone from airline stewardesses to members of the Korean branch of the Ohtani fan club were waiting there — but they could be in for an even more frenzied start to their season next year.

Per Dylan Hernández of The Los Angeles Times, Dodgers officials believe that they'll be tapped to play in another international series in 2025 — this time, in Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto's home country of Japan (subscription required). Not only that, but they could play exhibition games at Es Con Field in Hokkaido, the home field of Ohtani's NPB team, the Nippon Ham Fighters.

Dodgers 2025 season may feature a series in Japan, with possible exhibition games against Shohei Ohtani's former team

With Ohtani and Yamamoto locked up for the next decade, the Dodgers charted a clear path forward for themselves as the destination for Japanese fans and NPB players with MLB ambitions. We've already started to see what that looks like in practicality, with Japanese media swarming Dodgers spring training and NPB pitching phenom Roki Sasaki, who LA has scouted since he was in high school, gunning for an early arrival to MLB.

Putting the Dodgers at the center of a series in Japan is really sort of a no-brainer, but when you think about all of the implications, it becomes even more exciting. Sometime this year, Ohtani will start a throwing program to get him back onto the mound in 2025 and, depending on the timing of this potential Japan series, could be ready to pitch for it. If the Padres are also tapped as the opposing team, Ohtani could pitch against Yu Darvish, a fellow alum of the Nippon Ham Fighters.

The last time Ohtani played in the Tokyo Dome — which would host the potential Japanese series next year — he, Yamamoto, and Darvish were all fighting to bring a third World Baseball Classic title to Japan, and the energy in the stadium was otherworldly. Putting all three back in that venue, especially as rivals instead of teammates, might blow the roof straight off.