Baseball is set to make its return in Japan. Japan's professional baseball season will begin on June 19, but without any fans in attendance, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) commissioner Atsushi Saito announced on Monday.
The league's 12 teams will be able to begin practice games on June 2. The season will be abbreviated to 120 games, from the original 143 regular season games on the schedule. This year's NPB All-Star Game as well as interleague games have been canceled.
"I hope we can provide some guidance for sports other than professional baseball," Saito said after an online meeting with representatives from the league, per the Associated Press. "It is important to operate cautiously according to our guidelines."
The Japanese baseball league was originally scheduled to begin its 2020 season on March 20, but the start was postponed because of the. Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently announced the end of the country's nationwide state of emergency. The restrictions due to the coronavirus were lifted in the last areas of the country, including in Tokyo and on the northern island of Hokkaido.
"It is with great joy that we have been able to decide on opening the season," Saito said. "But we believe it is from now that we must make thorough preparations without fail, and it remains crucial our efforts move forward cautiously while protecting our players, other people involved and their families."
Japan is following in the footsteps of South Korea (Korea Baseball Organization) and Taiwan (Chinese Professional Baseball League) where two other professional baseball leagues have started their 2020 seasons. Both leagues started behind closed doors, but the CPBL in Taiwan recently started allowing fans to attend games. All three leagues could provide blueprints for Major League Baseball.
MLB is still on an indefinite hiatus of its 2020 season. MLB and the Players Association are currently in talks about returning to play, and .