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Korean, Japanese baseball unlikely to start until least May

The KBO was hoping to start about April 21st, the NPB in Japan April 24th. But that will still be too soon due to the coronavirus crisis.

Infielder Park Byung-ho of South Korea celebrates with his teammates after winning the WBSC Premier 12 Opening Round Group C game between South Korea and Cuba at the Gocheok Sky Dome on November 08, 2019 in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Two Asian baseball leagues will not start until at least May, and even that might be optimistic due to the novel coronavirus.

The Korean Baseball Organization has decided to delay the start of play until at least April 21st, and likely weeks later following a meeting of the league presidents yesterday, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

The season was supposed to have begun last Saturday, but the COVID-19 outbreak forced the KBO to postpone the start indefinitely. Last Tuesday, the board of governors — made up of 10 team presidents — agreed that they’d work to open the season at some point after April 20, with hopes of starting April 21 and squeezing all 144 games into a compressed calendar.

But with few, if any, signs that the virus has been tamed, the GMs on Tuesday discussed pushing the start date further back to May.

One proposal had the season beginning on May 5 and teams playing 135 games each. In that case, the postseason will wrap up by Nov. 10.

The most drastic suggestion had the teams starting on May 29 and playing only 108 regular season games. The league would still be able to crown a champion in November under that scenario.

For those hoping for baseball to start somewhere and sometime soon, this is disappointing but understandable. Japanese baseball is in the same boat now as well, as they were hoping to start April 24th but are realizing that’s also unlikely. Three Hanshin Tigers recently tested positive while in preseason training, which makes their projected start date even more precarious.

The life-and-death risk involved in these games really hits home once players see their colleagues fall victim to the virus, as well as the greater threat to the public health overall, even without allowing spectators into the ballparks. Before the Hanshin players contracted COVID-19, the NPB thought they had exercised the proper precautions, quarantining their teams and even taking the temperatures of players, staff and whatever media was permitted in the building, as the Japan News reported.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’ll be playing much professional baseball anytime soon.