With Nippon Professional Baseball due to open its season behind closed doors on June 19, teams have begun playing intrasquad games to prepare, and will begin playing practice games against other teams from Tuesday.
NPB preparing strict virus guidelines
As Opening Day rapidly approaches, NPB executives are hard at work developing countermeasures to promote the safety of not just players but those who work with them or at ballparks and those peoples’ families.
According to Kyodo News in Japanese, proposed measures for these guidelines include:
- Quarantines for those testing positive that will last until 14 days AFTER they produce a negative test result.
- Immediate isolation of those deemed to have come in close contacted with infected people.
- 7 days self-quarantine if someone or a family member feels unwell — even if no tests are deemed necessary or tests come back negative.
- Fixed 5-man umpiring crews.
- Home plate umpires wearing surgical masks at all times.
- An end to spitting, high-fives, hand shaking and “enjin” — the practice of huddling up before games and before a team’s at-bats when someone says something to get everyone fired up.
- Media to be barred from the field and dugouts.
- Media to observe social distancing in those areas they are allowed to occupy.
- Media to no longer walk alongside players.
Fujinami sent down for tardiness
Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami has been demoted to the farm team for being late to practice, the Daily Sports reported Friday. It’s kind of an unusual story for two reasons. The first is that Japanese players tend to be punctual. The second is that the Tigers are one of those teams that do things like boot camp, where you are told to be 15 minutes early for everything.
Current Tigers scout Jeff Williams once talked about this custom known as “Tiger time.” Players would be told when to arrive, but because the team occupies two different parallel time universes, normal time and Tiger time, it got so confusing to Williams that he had to perpetually ask, “Is that real time or Tiger time.”
So it could have been that Fujinami was late because he was operating on the wrong clock. When he showed up after the expected time for a 10:30 am (time mode unknown) practice on Thursday, the pitcher was not permitted to take the field.
“This is not the first time for him,” manager Akihiro Yano said. “It’s up to Shintaro to make what he will of this. I made my decision based on the fact that being a responsible member of society comes before being a baseball player.”
The other confusing side to the story is that the Japanese word for late is often used in conjunction with players who are delayed in achieving game fitness. So when reading that Fujinami was late and knowing he was hospitalized after testing positive for the novel coronavirus in March, at first glance it seemed like a fitness issue, when maybe it was just a Tiger time issue.
Lotte’s Sasaki ‘not ready yet’: Iguchi
The Nikkan Sports reported Friday that fireballing Lotte Marines 18-year-old is still not close to being used in a game according to manager Tadahito Iguchi.
Sasaki, who twice hit 160 kilometers (99.4 miles) per hour in a simulated game on Tuesday, is not in line to be used during the Marines’ 12 practice games next month.
“He’s on track but I don’t think he’ll make those,” Iguchi said, sticking to the team’s roadmap not to overwork the lanky right-hander with the smooth fluid delivery.
Women’s league to start June 23
The Japan Women’s Baseball League announced Friday it will open its 2020 season on June 23 with a game between the Kyoto Flora and the Saitama Astria, four days after NPB pops the cork on its regular season. The league will adopt special rules in order to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Games will be limited to 90 minutes and seven innings for single games, and five innings when two games are played at the same venue.
The three-team circuit was founded in 2009 when, according to the league, there were five women’s hardball high school clubs in Japan. By last year there were 40. During that time, the number of registered women ballplayers has gone from 600 to 20,000.
NPB has not offered any concrete rule changes for its games other than discussing possibly changing its active roster limits.