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Japan baseball season delayed over coronavirus

09 Mar 2020
 Pre-season baseball game played behind closed doors between the Hanshin Tigers and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Fukuoka, Feb. 29, 2020. (file photo/AFP)
Pre-season baseball game played behind closed doors between the Hanshin Tigers and Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Fukuoka, Feb. 29, 2020. (file photo/AFP)
Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball, speaks to reporters during a press conference in Tokyo on March 9, 2020
Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball, speaks to reporters during a press conference in Tokyo on March 9, 2020
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Updated 09 Mar 2020
09 Mar 2020

The 12 member teams of the Central and Pacific leagues under the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization decided Monday to postpone the start of their official season from March 20, due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

The decision was made at a meeting of team representatives in response to a suggestion by a panel of experts to delay official matches held by NPB and the Japan Professional Football League, or J.League, at a liaison meeting the same day of a committee set up by the two groups to discuss countermeasures against the ever-spreading virus.

The expert panel had proposed that NPB push back the start of its regular season matches and that J.League delay the March 18 restart of official matches.

J.League will also hold a meeting on Monday to discuss whether to postpone the restart date.

It will be the first time for the start of the regular pro baseball season to be delayed since 2011, when NPB rescheduled the beginning of the season from March 25 to April 12 due to the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Speaking at a press conference after the liaison meeting, Mitsuo Kaku, a professor at Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University and a member of the expert panel, said that the expert panel is unsure whether the groups would be able to stop the virus from spreading at matches.

“We suggested (that the organizations) delay the start (of official matches) and make thorough preparations,” he added.

Following a statement from an expert panel under the Japanese government on February 24 that the coming one or two weeks would be crucial for either containing or promoting a further spread of the virus, J.League decided the following day to put off a total of 94 official matches slated through March 15.

On February 26, NPB decided that 72 preseason matches would be held without spectators. The organization had aimed to start regular season matches on March 20.

JIJI Press

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