Japanese baseball delayed again in bad sign for all sports

Nippon Professional Baseball announced that the start of the Japanese baseball season, which was rescheduled for April 24, now will not happen until late May at the earliest.

But it could be a lot longer than that after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a national state of emergency Tuesday. A prominent baseball agent in correspondence with a team official in Japan was informed by that executive that with that national emergency declared, NPB does not expect to start before late June. An MLB club official confirmed that is the news they were hearing as well.

Atsushi Ihara, an NPB executive, told reporters in Japan of the delay of at least one month.

The Japanese league had initially delayed the start of its season to April 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic and was proceeding in that fashion even after three Hanshin Tiger players tested positive for coronavirus.

However, Abe declared a state of emergency Tuesday that is expected to last at least one month and cover Tokyo and six other prefectures that account for most of the Japanese teams, such as Tokyo Giants and Yakult Swallows.

That Japan had restarted spring training, albeit without fans in the crowd, after its initial wave with the virus was seen as encouraging in some MLB quarters. But the virus being caught by the Tiger players and this national emergency triggered as the virus rebounded more substantially in Japan is a symbol of how difficult it will be to make firm plans by any sports league.

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