NPB aiming for April 24 openers

After meeting for the fourth time with the J-League pro soccer establishment, Nippon Professional Baseball on Monday announced the Central and Pacific Leagues will aim to start their 2020 seasons on April 24.

The J-League has suspended play since the middle of February, while NPB completed its preseason games behind closed doors. The baseball season was originally set to start on March 20 in a season that would include a three-week Olympic break and would run until the middle of November. But due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, Japan’s government asked that large events be canceled to limit the spread of the virus.

When making the decision to delay Opening Day, NPB set April 10 as the earliest possible start time, and since March 20, teams have been playing practice games behind closed doors.

“It’s difficult to say that we will absolutely be staging games from April 24, but we will make a maximum effort to do so,” NPB commissioner Atsushi Saito said.

Opening season in April motivated by greed, not logic.

The PL will suspend its practice games from Tuesday and then resume baseball activities on April 10, while the CL will play its scheduled games on Tuesday and Wednesday and then take off until April 14.

The leagues are looking at playing six warm-up games before Opening Day, and expect to play a full 143-game regular season, although the Climax Series playoffs to determine each league’s Japan Series team may be abbreviated.

The teams are looking into measures that would reduce the health hazards by possibly restricting access to elderly fans and those with health conditions and perhaps keeping out fans who have just arrived from overseas.

When the April 10 date was set last month, late April was targeted as the last point at which NPB could still play a full 143-game full season.

Jim Allen

sports editor for a wire service in Tokyo

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