Japanese baseball's restrictions on attendance during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic were a distant memory as nearly 30,000 fans watched the Chiba Lotte Marines host the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks at Zozo Marine Stadium on Friday night.

A crowd that size is more than usual for the Marines, but not a big surprise. The team has a rabid fan base, and the starting pitcher that night, Roki Sasaki, is a box-office talent fans want to see. The Marines also have an average attendance of 25,623 so far this year at their windswept Tokyo Bay venue.

The biggest takeaway from the announced crowd of 29,180 is that the figure could have come during any NPB season before the word "pandemic" became part of the world's everyday lexicon.