Nippon Pro Baseball targets June start

Nippon Professional Baseball commissioner Atsushi Saito has said the league’s 12 teams are aiming to start the 2020 season in the second half of June following postponement due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2020 NPB season was slated to start on March 20 before a state of emergency was declared in Japan in April.

The NPB is currently drawing up guidelines on how to safely hold games amid the unprecedented circumstances, and has received instructions from the Taiwanese and South Korean sports leagues that have already resumed, Kyodo News reports. Baseball has already returned in Taiwan and South Korea in empty stadiums and with strict Covid-19-related guidelines.

With 18 out of the 143 regular-season games on each team’s 2020 schedule already cancelled, Saito suggested that the remaining 125-game schedule would also likely be shortened. “The timing is getting trickier and trickier. I think the number of games will decrease to some extent,” he told a press conference.

“While keeping an eye on the infection situation until the end of the month, we will carefully assess the situation, carefully make preparations, and if all the requirements are in order, the 12 teams are in agreement to try to open the season somewhere between the middle and end of next month.”

The teams plan to meet again on May 22 to discuss the plan further.