The saying “no news is good news” is usually true, but in the case of Japanese baseball, I beg to differ. NPB team representatives had a meeting today (May 11) and reached the conclusion that it is not yet possible to set an exact date for Opening Day. They have said that they will aim towards starting back up sometime in mid to late June, though. What they did make official was that the All-Star Game and the Fresh All-Star Game (for first and second year players) will be cancelled. This marks the first time since their inceptions (1951 and 1963 respectively) that they will not be played.
A few rumors have floated around about how the league might get started, though. One possibility is to have Central League teams congregate in the Tokyo area, where three of the teams already have their home ballparks (Giants = Tokyo Dome, Swallows = Jingu Stadium, BayStars = Yokohama Stadium). The Pacific League teams could use the Hyogo-Osaka area (Hotto Motto Field in Kobe, Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Kyocera Dome in Osaka) for their games. Teams could shuffle around in buses in order to avoid contact with the public, which would lessen the risk of infection. Should the situation drastically improve, the league could find a point at which games could be played at all home stadiums, although this contingency plan could also be used for the entire season if necessary.
Unfortunately, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, who are situated on a separate island from the rest of the league, is having problems arranging a way off the island. Team president Koji Kawamura has said that one airline has already refused them a charter flight. They will continue to look for ways to work with the other clubs in their league to make the season happen.
If the season does in fact start on June 19, which is believed to be the earliest it would begin, they would play a maximum of 120 games apiece, and the playoff system would be reduced to just a Japan Series towards the end of November.
Let’s end with a couple of video shares. First, Matt Murton (formerly of the Hanshin Tigers) worked together with some of his friends to put together a video featuring over 30 NPB and former NPB players, encouraging the fans to hang in there.
Also, Tyler Austin, who signed with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars this past offseason, opened up his home to show fans one of his “stay-at-home” workouts.
We hope he and the rest of the players will be able to play meaningful baseball soon, but naturally, everyone’s safety and health comes first.