The South Korean Professional Baseball League began with the crack of the bat and the sound of the ball smacking into the catcher’s mitt echoing around empty stadiums. And to the delight of baseball-starved fans everywhere, it is good news after ESPN announced that it will live-broadcast six games a week.
After a week-long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league is back and saw the umpires wear protective masks and cheerleaders danced beneath rows of unoccupied seats as professional baseball got back on the field.
There were many face pictures in the stands as a way for encouragement to the players in at least one stadium, because fans are not allowed into the venues for now until further notice.
It was a relief to fans as they got a glance of the players cheering and shouting from the dugouts through live streaming while at home, especially now when the Koreans Government is attempting to slowly return to pre-COVID-19 normalcy amid a warning caseload.
The Korean Baseball Organization has employed major various preventive measures aimed at creating safe playing environments to tackle the pandemic as the world’s first major professional sports competition returns to action.
It will be mandatory for the players and coaches will be required to go through fever screenings before entering stadiums, while umpires and first-and third-base coaches must wear masks during games.
Also, the players won’t be allowed to sign autographs or high-fiving teammates with bare hands while chewing of tobacco has been banned as a way to prevent spitting, and the masks, latex gloves will be required at training facilities.
The fanatics of the sport will be barred from games until the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is fully convinced the risk of infection has been minimized or under control. But, if any member of a team contracts coronavirus and tests positive to the virus at any point of the season, the league will definitely go on hold for at least three weeks.
The KBO is optimistic after laying out contingency plans to maintain a 144-game regular-season schedule. But decided to scrap its all-star game and shorten the first round of the playoffs from best-of-five to best-of-three series.
After South Korea reported about 500 new virus infections a day back in early March, the KBO was forced to postpone its March 28 season openers, which brought many speculations throughout the social media about a full season of baseball getting played.
According to measures set by the government to tighten borders and restrictions, saw the infections rate reduce and South Korea reported only three new cases on Tuesday. It’s the lowest daily jump since infections surged in late February.
Experts credit the downward trend to active efforts to test and isolate virus carriers and trace their contacts using medical, banking and immigration records and information provided by police and telecommunications companies.
Everyone is hopeful that the season will go accordingly without any hiccups as things get back to normalcy during these hard times due to the COVID-19, which has shaken entire sports in the world.