Less than one day after Nippon Professional Baseball announced its season will start on June 19, teams began hitting the gas, ramping up their workouts in order to be ready.
The Opening Day is actually the fourth one NPB has announced this year, but the other three were all: “This coronavirus thing should be done before it interrupts with business as usual.” As teams resumed playing intrasquad games on Tuesday, there was no sense that this is usual.
Speaking of Orix. Here’s some video of one of my favorite pitchers, Buffaloes right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
Take me out to the ballpark
On Monday, NPB commissioner Atsushi Saito said teams weren’t even talking about when they might get fans into the park, but that silence didn’t last long, according to the Nikkan Sports.
“We are following government guidelines and will work within the restraints imposed by local governments,” NPB secretary general Atsushi Ihara said.
The season will start with games behind closed doors, and from July 10 at the earliest, teams might be permitted to allow as many as 5,000 fans. The current guidlines on event activities could expire by Aug. 1, but teams are going to limit crowds to half of their stadiums’ capacities.
The Hiroshima Carp have been allowing up to 500 fans a day into their workouts at Mazda Stadium.
Clapping for carers
One of the things the players decided to do when they resumed workouts was to perform a symbolic show of support to the frontline health workers that have enabled Japan to weather the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic and enabled NPB to even talk about opening the season.
Throughout the country, teams distributed videos of their players saluting healthcare workers. Here’s the Seibu Lions performing theirs at MetLife Dome just outside Tokyo. The guy leading them is the team’s new captain, shortstop Sosuke Genda.
Once upon a time, every Sunday during Japan’s baseball season meant between three and six doubleheaders. One of the few successes Japan’s players union ever had was cutting them out as burdensome. There haven’t been any in NPB since October 1998, when they were made necessary to make up rainouts so teams could finish their seasons.
On Sunday, the entire Yomiuri Giants roster will mass at Tokyo Dome for an intrasquad doubleheader, a sure sign that things are not normal this year.