Like many other organizations in Japan, professional baseball is adjusting to the state of emergency declared Tuesday by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
The declaration covers seven prefectures, including Tokyo, and will be in effect until at least May 6.
Shortly after Abe made the declaration official, NPB said it would close its main office, located in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, for the time being. Commissioner Atsushi Saito also released a statement saying the league would have to further delay the start of its season.
NPB’s opening day, which had already been pushed back twice from its original date, March 20, was tentatively scheduled to begin April 24. The league, however, had already begun moving on from that plan last week after consultations with a panel of medical experts. Abe’s directive was also an expected outcome.
“We want to give our heartfelt thanks to the managers, players, officials and fans for their understanding of this decision,” Saito said Tuesday.
“As professional baseball, a national sport, we are working hard to get to a day where we can once again display performances full of enjoyment.”
The league has not been immune from the pandemic, with three members of the Hanshin Tigers testing positive for COVID-19 last month.
As NPB tries to figure out a way to salvage a 2020 season, teams are also plotting their next steps.
Eight of NPB’s 12 clubs are directly affected by the emergency declaration, which, in addition to Tokyo, covers Chiba, Fukuoka, Hyogo, Kanagawa, Osaka and Saitama prefectures. The order will likely prevent most teams from holding full practices for the time being.
The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, who suspended all team activities on March 31, will begin voluntary practices, in small, rotating groups, on Thursday. The Yomiuri Giants are already having individual training, with players additionally practicing in small groups, at different times, at their practice facility in Kanagawa Prefecture.
Many other teams, including some outside the seven regions Abe mentioned, are taking similar measures while also instructing players to refrain from going to restaurants and either closing team offices or having employees work remotely. Most official team shops will also be closed until further notice.
On Wednesday, the Japan Professional Baseball Players Association, which consists of 725 members, announced that players would be making donations to a fund set up to help combat the virus on the Japanese crowdfunding platform READYFOR.
“As the players association, under the guidance of the 12 teams’ player representatives, every player will donate to the fund as a way to give a little bit of power to slow the spread,” said JPPBA president and Giants catcher Ginjiro Sumitani, in a video message from the union.
“We’re going to do whatever we can so that we can show our best play to everyone again.”
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