The long, dark offseason continues on. At present, NPB has no concrete plans to start the 2020 season. In fact, for the first time since its start in 2005, the interleague schedule will be scrapped. The latest speculations are that the season will begin no sooner than June 19, and possibly not until July. The next official meeting is scheduled for May 11, at which point NPB hopes to have clearer direction as to how it will proceed.
On that note, the Japan High School Baseball Federation also needs to make a decision about whether or not it is feasible to hold the summer national tournament. A meeting has been planned for May 20 to make a decision. The tournament, which started in 1914, has only been cancelled for the 1918 Rice Riots and World War II.
With COVID-19 taking its toll on Tokyo more than any other part of Japan, the Yomiuri Giants are giving financial support to the medical industry, particularly in Tokyo. The team’s two managers (Tatsunori Hara and Shinnosuke Abe) plus three star players (Hayato Sakamoto, Tomoyuki Sugano, Yoshihiro Maru) have each donated ¥10-million (approx. $95,000). Speaking of athletes who are giving to good causes, Chicago Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish took all his profits from his YouTube channel (approximately $45,000 in November 2019) and donated to the national cancer research center and Little Ones, a non-profit organization that helps single mothers.
Recently, there has been talk about the possibility of expansion in NPB. Spearheading the movement are former greats Sadaharu Oh (Giants) and Atsuya Furuta (Swallows). Conditions for joining the league include having a home stadium dedicated primarily to baseball, ownership (stockholder rate) that is at least 51% Japanese, ¥3 billion ($30 million) in start-up fees, plus the approval of at least 75% of current team owners. Furuta speculates that they could start with two more teams, and eventually add two more later. Possible cities include Niigata, Shizuoka, Matsuyama (Ehime) and Naha (Okinawa).
We’ll end on a positive (but COVID-19) note. Former Nippon-Ham Fighters and Hanshin Tigers slugger (and eventually coach) Atsushi Kataoka tested positive and was hospitalized on April 8. He even reported it from his bed to his YouTube channel! Fortunately, he has been discharged and has returned to making his videos from outside the confines of the hospital. He has said he felt like he was near his death, and now warns people to take this virus very seriously.
We hope you are all in good health and staying safe indoors. Maybe in two weeks’ time, the next news update will have more positive stories heading your way.