Coronavirus: Japan’s plans to start baseball season put on hold until at least June


The ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic has put almost every sport on hold for the foreseeable future, and now Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), which had been hoping to start its 2020 season, has decided that no games will be played through at least May. 

The NPB decided to do away with the interleague portion of its schedule and postpone the start of the 2020 season until no sooner than June, the Associated Press reports. At present, that means NPB teams would play no more than 125 games in a 2020 regular season, and that number could of course be whittled down further.

NPB’s constituent leagues, the Central and Pacific Leagues, were scheduled to open regular season play on March 20, but then that date was pushed back into early and then late April. Now uncertainty prevails, just as it does for Major League Baseball and so many other sports leagues.

Relative to many other large countries, Japan has not been hard-hit by COVID-19, but out of an abundance of caution NPB has decided that playing a full regular season isn’t a viable goal. “It was clear that we were going to have to reduce the number of games,” said Shosaku Yokota of the Orix Buffaloes told the AP. “We decided that in such a case, it was best to protect league games.”

Right now, the Chinese Professional Baseball League based in Taiwan is the only notable baseball circuit playing games (and they recently graced fans with a walk-off home run in front of robot fans). MLB’s most viable path toward playing a 2020 regular season may be playing all games in Arizona, at least to start the season. For now, though, MLB’s road ahead, just like NPB’s, is highly uncertain. 





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