With much concern around the world regarding the spread of coronavirus, it was inevitable that there’d be an impact on the staging of sporting events. Asia’s two most significant baseball leagues are beginning to adjust their schedules to adapt to a situation in which large public gatherings would not be prudent.
The situation is especially concerning in Korea, which has seen the most cases of infection outside of China (where the disease originated). The Korea Baseball organization is responding by canceling its slate of planned pre-season games, as Jee-ho Yoo of Yonhap News reports.
For the KBO, this may only be the beginning. The league is still pondering what to do about the upcoming regular season. Delaying Opening Day (presently scheduled for March 28th) is presumably one possibility.
Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball is also taking action, as the Associated Press reports, but it is taking a somewhat different initial step. The NPB’s spring contests will take place in empty stadiums. There’s still hope of launching the regular season as scheduled on March 20th, but that decision has yet to be made.
Keeping fans away from the spring contests was a “bitter decision,” in the words of the NPB commissioner, but it seems clear that tougher choices could still be to come. In addition to the baseball regular season, Tokyo is scheduled to host the Summer Olympics beginning in late July.
The handling of these difficult questions abroad could help inform Major League Baseball’s approach to the coronavirus situation — if and when it must do so. No doubt the league is already working through contingency plans that would avoid disruption to the extent possible while serving far more important public health imperatives.