South Korea base­ball sea­son be­gins play

Orlando Sentinel - - Sports -

The new base­ball sea­son be­gan in South Korea on Tues­day with the crack of the bat and the sound of the ball smack­ing into the catcher’s mitt echo­ing around empty sta­di­ums.

Af­ter a weeks-long de­lay be­cause of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, um­pires wore pro­tec­tive masks and cheer­lead­ers danced be­neath rows of un­oc­cu­pied seats as pro base­ball got back on the field.

There were many faces in the stands in at least one sta­dium, but they were pic­tures in­stead of real peo­ple be­cause fans aren’t al­lowed into the venues — for now.

In­stead, it was easy to hear players cheer­ing and shouting from the dugouts. And it was a re­lief to fans watch­ing from home in a coun­try that is now at­tempt­ing to slowly re­turn to pre-COVID-19 nor­malcy amid a wan­ing caseload.

The coun­try’s pro­fes­sional soc­cer leagues will kick off Fri­day, also with­out spec­ta­tors in the sta­di­ums.

As one of the world’s first ma­jor pro­fes­sional sports com­pe­ti­tions to re­turn to action amid the pan­demic, the Korea Base­ball Or­ga­ni­za­tion has em­ployed var­i­ous pre­ven­tive mea­sures aimed at cre­at­ing safe play­ing en­vi­ron­ments.

Players and coaches will go through fever screen­ings be­fore en­ter­ing sta­di­ums, while um­pires and first- and third­base coaches must wear masks dur­ing games. Players are pro­hib­ited from sign­ing au­to­graphs or high-fiv­ing team­mates with bare hands.

Also, chew­ing to­bacco was banned to pre­vent spit­ting, while masks and la­tex gloves will be required at train­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

Fans will be barred from games un­til the KBO is con­vinced the risk of in­fec­tion has been min­i­mized. If any mem­ber of a team tests pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus at any point of the sea­son, the league will be shut down for at least three weeks.

Bar­ring any virus-re­lated sus­pen­sion, the KBO plans to main­tain a 144-game reg­u­lar sea­son sched­ule. But it de­cided to scrap its all-star game and shorten the first round of the play­offs from best-of­five to best-of-three se­ries.

CHUNG SUNG-JUN/GETTY

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