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Start of Japanese baseball season in doubt over coronavirus fears


Atsushi Saito (L), commissioner of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, speaks next to Mitsuru Murai, J-League football chairman, during a press conference to discuss the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tokyo on March 2, 2020. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Japanese baseball commissioner Atsushi Saito said today that the on-schedule opening of the Japanese baseball season is no guarantee due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

The NPB is already playing spring training games to empty stadiums. Saito said in a news conference today that that could be the case for regular season games too. Or, possibly, the regular season could be postponed. It all depends on what happens with the virus and how it impacts the public over the coming weeks. Saito:

“That is the difficult part. At this point, we still can’t say what action we will take under what conditions.”

The Japan Times reports that the NPB is working together with Japan’s top soccer league, the J-League, to come up with a response:

On Tuesday, the two leagues will officially launch a joint task force to counter the impact of the virus that has spread across the nation, forcing the cancellation of some sporting events, the suspension of others and even the decision of a few to play behind closed doors . . . The new task force will include a panel of experts consisting of three medical advisors, including its chairman Mitsuo Kaku, who serves as a specially appointed professor of medicine in the department of infection control and laboratory diagnostics at Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University. The panel is expected to publish a written opinion regarding virus containment measures around mid-March.

In the United States, there are currently no plans to cancel or postpone games or have them held in empty stadiums or arenas. Yesterday it was reported that “Officials from the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball say they are all consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations on a regular basis about COVID-19.” It’s basically a wait-and-see approach. Which, given the dynamic of the situation, is probably the best one can do at the moment.

Follow @craigcalcaterra