Ramping up: 10 days to go

On Monday, NPB spilled some more news about changes to its 2020 season made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic.

Draft moved to November

The Nikkan Sports reported this year’s amateur draft will be moved back from Oct. 26 to early November and that with no tournaments to attend, scouts have been able to observe high school practices since June 1 with the permission of schools’ director of baseball–yes, some Japanese high schools have directors of baseball.

Planning for cast of thousands

The Nikkan also reported on Monday’s liason meeting between NPB and pro soccer’s J-League. With the government having said that up to 5,000 fans could be allowed into ballparks from July 10, Dr. Mitsuo Kaku, an epidemiologist who has been advising the bodies, recommended teams consider the impact on public transportation and neighboring eating establishments in their planning.

“It’s extremely difficult to execute social distancing when we’re talking about thousands of people,” he said.

Saito: Uniform policy needed

After the conference, NPB commissioner Saito explained that NPB has finally begun to establish some testing policy. Until now, teams have created their own response to potential infections on the fly. According to the Nikkan, NPB will perform roughly 2,000 tests on players, staff and umpires prior to the June 19 season openers at a cost of about 20,000 yen ($180) per test.

There are roughly 1,000 players under contract with NPB clubs at any given time. The plan will be to have everyone undergo testing once a month.

“There are going to be so many different situations, that we absolutely have to lay out our plans in advance,” Saito said.

Last Wednesday, Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto and Giants catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive for COVID-19. The Giants consulted with specialists before settling on a policy that would allow the two to return to practice after producing negative test results on consecutive days.

The guidelines NPB had leaked a week earlier would have required the pair to self-quarantine for two weeks after testing negative, virtually ruling them out of any games until July.

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