If Asia’s top professional baseball leagues represent a preview of what MLB can expect when it tries to get back to play, then the results are mixed — and remain largely indeterminate. Let’s catch up on the latest …
Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball is back on ice, as Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times writes. It’s a reflection of renewed measures to tamp down on the spread of COVID-19 in the island nation, which recently declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas.
The league’s timeline is now again uncertain. With the new restrictions on activities already set to extend for about a month, a mid-May start to the 2020 NPB campaign would seem to be the best-case scenario.
Even still, Japanese clubs remain able to do quite a bit more than is presently possible for their MLB peers. As Coskrey explains, teams are now backing away from full-squad workouts but are still holding individual or small-group practices at team facilities.
The situation is more promising at the moment in Korea. Per an Associated Press report, the Korea Baseball Organization is currently hoping for an early May launch.
Pre-season KBO contests could occur as soon as April 21, according to the report. There’s already baseball of some sort available, as the Lotte Giants have plans to broadcast intrasquad contests (via MyKBO, on Twitter) as they prepare for spring tilts later this month.
Most promising of all? Taiwan’s top league, the Chinese Professional Baseball League. It’s still scheduled to launch its season — without any fans (real ones, anyway) — on April 11. While it doesn’t carry the reputation of the other two major Asian professional circuits, the CPBL stages a five-team league that spans the island and typically draws reasonably sizable crowds. It’s a much simpler and smaller operation than the majors, to be sure, but it could be a good bellwether for whether and how baseball can resume.