• Kyodo

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Japan’s players union on Monday asked Nippon Professional Baseball to delay the start of the 2017 season so that those who play for NPB’s team in next year’s World Baseball Classic can better prepare for Opening Day.

A negotiating team, including seven players, from the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association met NPB officials and asked that the Central and Pacific Leagues begin play on April 7 instead of March 31 as currently scheduled.

Although the schedule and venues for next year’s WBC have not been announced, NPB’s players had just one week to prepare for the opening of the season after they returned to Japan from the final round in San Francisco.

“We want to be in best condition for the WBC, and then go into the season in the best condition,” said Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks captain Seiichi Uchikawa, a two-time veteran of the WBC.

Chiba Lotte Marines outfielder Katsuya Kakunaka, who played in the 2013 tournament when NPB’s squad was knocked out in the semifinals, said, “We could only play two (preseason) games after coming home. If we could play in about five, it would be quite a difference.”

Kiyoaki Suzuki, the Hiroshima Carp’s director of baseball operations, took part in the talks for NPB.

“I’ve heard that players can’t prepare,” he said. “From our perspective, with the schedule we have now, I want to see what we can do to follow up on this.”

The WBC’s organizers are expected to make some announcements about the upcoming event this month.

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