The start of the baseball campaign in Japan has again been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nippon Professional Baseball hoped to open play in May, but team officials decided Friday that the season will not begin before the end of May. There is no firm date in place for the beginning of the season, the Associated Press reported.
Additionally, per the AP, NPB officials decided to nix interleague play — which removes 18 games from each team’s schedule. The result, as currently constructed, is a 125-game regular season for the 12-team organization, which includes six teams out of the Central League and six more from the Pacific League.
The leagues started incorporating interleague play in 2005. The NPB season culminates with the Japan Series, a matchup of the top teams from each league akin to the World Series in MLB.
Opening day for both the Central and Pacific leagues was initially set for March 20.
That start date was earlier than usual to account for a three-week break scheduled to take place in the summer for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
However, the spread of the coronavirus caused a delay. The start date was first pushed to April 10 and then to April 24. Now, NPB has no target date, but it won’t have to include the three-week Olympic break into the schedule after the 2020 Games were postponed to 2021.
Meanwhile, Chinese Professional Baseball League — Taiwan’s four-team league — started play last weekend without fans in the stands.
Elsewhere, the Korean Baseball Organization (South Korea’s 10-team professional league) is set to start preseason play on Tuesday and hopes its regular season will soon follow in early May.
The league, which plays a 144-game calendar, is taking major precautions to ensure the safety of its players.