GINOZA, OKINAWA PREF. – The traditional jet balloon launches by fans of the Hanshin Tigers may fall victim to the current coronavirus outbreak after the team asked fans on Friday to refrain from the practice.
For decades, fans of the popular NPB club have inflated the long cylindrical balloons prior to their team batting in the seventh inning. After fans sing the team’s victory song, “Rokko Oroshi,” the balloons are released en masse.
“As a team, we wanted to do whatever we could,” a spokesperson of the Central League club said.
With a number of other clubs having since copied the balloon releases, the noise of the air rushing from balloons as they twist into the air at a packed ballpark has become a popular spectacle across the country.
In a statement released by the team, fans were asked not to launch balloons at practice or preseason games at the Tigers spring training facility in Ginoza, Okinawa Prefecture, their farm camp in Aki, Kochi Prefecture, or at any Tigers road games during spring training.
There is no word on whether the restriction will be extended into March’s preseason games. With the Summer Olympics taking place in Tokyo, NPB teams will be on a break from July 21 until Aug. 13. Because of that, the regular season will start about a week earlier than usual, on March 20.
In May 2009, the Tigers asked fans to halt their balloon launches during the spread of a new influenza strain.