Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) will play games in 2020. The league, which has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, received approval to begin its season June 19, according to the Japan Times.
The league was supposed to begin March 20, but its season was delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. A few weeks later, Japan issued a state of emergency in the country. The government advisory board lifted that state of emergency for certain areas early Monday, paving the way for NPB to play ball.
With the season starting later than expected, NPB will cut its regular season from 143 games to 120, according to the Japan Times. Fans will not be allowed in stadiums initially, though there’s hope fans could attend games later in the summer.
The NPB is still working out the details regarding the season’s late start. There are reportedly proposals that would include shortening the league’s playoffs, eliminating interleague games, getting rid of the All-Star Series and capping games at nine innings. Those details aren’t finalized yet, and could change.
NPB practice games are expected to begin June 2 through June 14. The NPB has not released a schedule for the 2020 season, but commissioner Atsushi Saito indicated that the schedule will be built in a way that lowers the risk of spreading the virus.
With the news, NPB becomes the second major professional baseball league to resume its season. The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) has been playing games since early May.
The quality of baseball in the NPB is considered fairly high. A number of significant players from NPB have come to MLB and experienced immense success, including Ichiro Suzuki, Masahiro Tanaka, Yu Darvish, Shohei Ohtani and others.
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