After having season opening series games in Japan in recent years, MLB will be making the move to Europe for the first time. It was announced today that in 2014 or 2015, a three-game "Amsterdam Series" will take place in the Netherlands, beating out a bid from Rome.
The Amsterdam Series will take place in a new stadium complex south of the town of Hoofddorp with a 600 seat capacity that can be expanded to up to 30,000 seats around one of the six fields in the complex. The stadium will need to be ready by February 2014, and will need to meet all MLB requirements to hold the Amsterdam Series games in either 2014 or 2015, and also future World Baseball Classic games.
MLB hasn't really made an impact in Europe in the way that they've wanted to, especially in comparison to the other three major sports leagues in America. But the Netherlands has emerged as one of the leaders in European baseball thanks to a pipeline of talent in the Dutch constituent country of Curacao, leading to a loaded World Baseball Classic roster for this spring's event.
Despite the glut of talent coming out of Curacao and Aruba in the last 15 years or so, there still haven't been many high impact players to come out of the European mainland. While many people criticized MLB's efforts opening the season in Japan last season, opening the season in the Netherlands could have a much bigger impact on the league in the future, potentially cultivating a new market where the WBC has really failed to take off in its two prior incarnations. It'll take years for things to really take off, but look at how many European players there are in the NBA. If baseball can draw even a fraction of that talent to the game, it'll only help the international health of the sport in the long-term. Because in reality right now, baseball is a two continent game, with two countries in Asia also having traditions in the sport. This is something that needs to change for the long-term viability of the sport on a global scale.