The ruling Liberal Democratic Party is set to create a league of lawmakers to realize its plan to increase the number of professional baseball teams in the nation to 16 from the current 12, a senior party member said Monday.
Yasuhisa Shiozaki, acting chief of the LDP’s Policy Research Council, unveiled the plan at a press conference after the party submitted a package of proposals for the government’s revised growth strategy to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier in the day.
The lawmakers’ group will be set up before the ongoing regular parliamentary session ends June 22, according to Shiozaki. The LDP hopes that increasing the number of professional baseball teams will help revive regional economies.
In the package, the LDP said that some areas have no professional baseball teams, pointing to Shizuoka Prefecture, the Hokushinetsu region of central Honshu, Shikoku, and Okinawa Prefecture.
The LDP apparently hopes to see new teams created in Niigata, Shizuoka, Ehime and Okinawa prefectures, informed sources said.
Hiroo Ishii, an LDP lawmaker in the House of Councilors and former professional baseball player, is expected to lead discussions on the plan, the sources said.
In Japan, there are two professional baseball leagues. One is the Central League, and the other the Pacific League. Each have six teams.
The LDP believes that U.S. regional economies have expanded as the number of teams in the Major League Baseball, which stood at 16 until 1960, gradually expanded. Currently, there are a total of 30 teams in the American and National Leagues.
One idea under study within the LDP is increasing the number of teams in the two Japanese leagues by two each. The eight teams in each league will be divided into the eastern and western divisions, and the number of games in the regular season will be increased from the 144 per team at present.
The party hopes to rev up regional economies partly by taking measures to boost the number of spectators attending professional baseball games, sources said.