When it finally gets under way, this is going to be what one fan has called a “patchwork” baseball season in Japan.

We already know starting times will be changed for many games during the month of April, and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles will not be able to play at home in Sendai until Golden Week.

Many, many other uncertainties will have to be cleared up as well — from ticket sales and refunds to TV coverage, team travel and special rules which will have an impact on game strategies, performances and statistics. Right now, there are more questions than answers.

Tickets sold for games which have been canceled may be exchanged for refunds at the outlets where they were bought, and it is expected attendance figures will naturally be lower at weekday afternoon games, while television stations need to rearrange schedules to air the games live.

The Japanese equivalent of each team’s traveling secretary must scramble to reschedule train and airline reservations, hotel bookings and other details to get the players and staff members where they will need to be. Most of the original travel preparations were completed months ago, and now those responsible will be faced with the difficulties of piecing together new itineraries.

The two factors which will most disturb the player performances and strategy are likely to be the darker stadium lighting and the elimination of extra innings.

Pitchers, perhaps given an edge by the new NPB baseball, would probably have a further advantage if it is more difficult for the hitters to see in dimmer light.

Since the games will not go beyond the ninth inning, managers and coaches will be quicker to make player substitutions, knowing they won’t need to hold back potential pinch hitters and relief pitchers for extended games. The final standings will no doubt include more tie games, and the pennant races and Climax Series qualifications decided by winning percentage will have tie games factored into the calculations.

The general opinion is both leagues will try to maintain a 144-game schedule and makeup games would be added as the season moves along. There have also been Japanese sports newspaper reports saying the players’ union is willing to play doubleheaders if necessary to complete the season.

Patchwork, indeed, and the 2011 season will surely be one of the most memorable in the history of Japanese baseball. Hopefully, it will eventually be remembered for helping to heal the hurt and rallying the country after a horrific series of events.

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Meanwhile, e-mails and phone calls have continued to pour in from concerned foreigners who played in Japan and fans of Japanese baseball, expressing their feelings about what happened on March 11.

Ex-Daiei Hawks and Yomiuri Giants (1999-2003) closer Rodney Pedraza wrote from Texas to say, “What a tragic thing to happen to such a beautiful place. Please say hello to everyone there and tell them I’m thinking of them.”

Perry Lee Barber, the female umpire who worked Japanese Pacific League exhibition games in the Kansai area in 1989, e-mailed from New York to say, “I was going to be writing you with happy news. I was planning to be in Japan in April with an all-girls baseball team from the U.S. named the Sparks who will be playing a series of exhibition games against Japanese girls teams for which I’ll be the chief umpire. But the tour has been postponed, presumably until at least July, so I will keep you posted as to the rescheduled dates.

“I am thinking of you and your loved ones, and all the wonderful people of Japan who are showing such incredible bravery and generosity toward their fellow human beings at this time of crisis. We should all possess such courage.”

When I asked Perry if it is OK to use her words in this column, she responded by saying, “Put me in, coach.”

Also checking in were former Orix Buffaloes (2007) pitcher Lance Carter, Yomiuri Giants (1984-90) outfielder Warren Cromartie and Chunichi Dragons player (1963-65) and coach (1981-83) Jim Marshall, praising the orderliness and resiliency of the Japanese people.

It hurts to think the number of citizens who will have been confirmed dead when this ordeal of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear power plant disaster is finally over will be more than the capacity of some of the ballparks in Japan where professional games are played.

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Friends & Fans: The 2011 edition (35th anniversary) of my Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide is now available. It is the complete English-language guide to Japanese baseball and includes league and team directories, team rosters, league schedules (at least as they were originally set), profiles of the foreign players, statistics from past seasons, directions to the stadiums, ticket prices and much more, packed into 128 pages.

The quickest way to get your copy is to order directly from me. Please send ¥1,000 in cash, Japanese postage stamps or postal check “kawase,” along with your name and address, to: Wayne Graczyk, 1-12-18 Kichijoji Higashi-cho, Musashino-shi, Tokyo-to 180-0002.

Fans outside Japan can order through the JapanBall.com website. Thanks.

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Contact Wayne Graczyk at: Wayne@JapanBall.com

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