Baseball is back underway in South Korea, league plans to play full season after coronavirus shutdown

Jack Baer
·2 min read

Baseball is officially coming back. At least in one country.

After a month-long shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, South Korea’s top-flight Korean Baseball Organization announced Tuesday that it will begin playing the regular season on May 5, according to the Yonhap News Agency. Preseason games in empty stadiums have already begun.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Per the Associated Press, the league said it plans to play its full 144-game regular season, but without its All-Star game and with the first round of the playoffs shortened from a best-of-five series to a best-of-three.

Games will initially be played without spectators, but the league reportedly plans to gradually open games once the risk of COVID-19 has been further reduced.

The KBO season had been previously scheduled to begin on March 28, but the league was among the many to shut down as the coronavirus pandemic worsened. Before the announcement, teams had been playing intrasquad scrimmages in isolation at their own parks.

Can MLB follow suit amid coronavirus pandemic?

Seeing baseball games return to South Korea could be an encouraging sign for those hoping MLB returns to action in the next few months, though the coronavirus conditions in the country are quite different from what the United States is currently facing.

The number of cases in South Korea has dropped dramatically in April, to the point that just nine new cases in the entire country were reported on Tuesday by the World Health Organization. There are 10,683 active cases overall.

In response to the dip in cases, South Korea prime minister Chung Sye-kyun announced the easing of social distancing guidelines on Sunday, opening the door for the KBO to begin the season.

Obviously, the U.S. is in a different situation. In the same WHO report, the United States had 27,668 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday and 751,273 active cases overall. Testing for the virus remains a mess as individual states compete for resources. Even as cases continue to rise by the thousands each day, some states are already easing stay-at-home orders.

Given that MLB has made it clear it will wait until it gets the all-clear from public heath authorities, it’s hard to see the U.S. reaching the place where South Korea is anytime soon. And South Korea isn’t really even in the clear, as fears of a second wave of coronavirus infections remain across the globe.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - APRIL 21: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) General view of LG Twins and Doosan Bears preseason game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium on April 21, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea. The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) open a preseason games Tuesday, with its 10 clubs scheduled to play four games each through April 27. The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) announced Tuesday that the 2020 regular season, postponed from its March 28 start date due to the coronavirus outbreak, will begin May 5.  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
South Korean baseball is coming back. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

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