Baseball is Back… Sort of

For sports fans across the globe, the past month has felt quiet and empty. With the suspension of sports after the COVID-19 outbreak, fans have turned to archived footage of games from years.

However, we can find inspiration in countries that have been able to flatten the curve as they begin to make the push toward re-normalizing life. For baseball, this hope has manifested itself in China, Taiwan, and South Korea, as players have begun to take the field once again.

This week, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) took steps to become the first major league to reopen its operations amid the pandemic. The league, based in Taiwan, has allowed baseball to be played without contributing to the further spread of the virus. Soon thereafter, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) also began to play their preseason games, with the official season slated to begin on May 5.

The teams play in empty stadiums, with fans being barred from attending games. Team staffers and umpires are required to wear masks, with some players also donning the new societal norm during the games. Teams are also adhering to the normal social-distancing guidelines while sitting in their dugouts.

Photographers and television cameras are also allowed to the games, being positioned in empty seats at an appropriate distance away from each other. In addition to these guidelines, whoever entered the stadium had their temperature checked before they entered, and as they left. In order to limit the spread of the virus, precautions such as these are necessary for sports to resume.

Baseball fans that have been left without the play of their favorite teams since Major League Baseball (MLB) suspended the season indefinitely on March 13. The reopening of leagues in other countries has given some fans a place to get their baseball fix, however, with many tuning in through internet broadcasts of the games. ESPN has even been in talks with the KBO to acquire broadcasting rights to their games, though the deal has reached a halt due to ESPN wanting the rights for free. Assuming that a deal goes through by the season-opening, however, live sports could return to baseball fans’ living rooms in the coming weeks.

If both the CPBL and KBO prove to be successful in keeping the players and staff healthy while beginning their season, it could provide the crucial groundwork to any plans for the MLB. Currently, the MLB has planned on making major changes to the structure of the 2020 season, with two leagues being isolated in Florida and Arizona based on the Spring Training leagues. Players would be kept in their team’s normal spring complex, being kept from their families and outside contact to limit the spread of the virus. While these plans are still in the works, MLB is working hard with its players, owners, and officials to find a suitable format for the 2020 season.

For now, baseball fans are still left with just classic games since the MLB season’s suspension.