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(LEAD) Baseball league expected to announce new start date next week

All News 14:26 April 14, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS details, comments)
By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, April 14 (Yonhap) -- Baseball is almost here in South Korea.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Tuesday it will wait another week before deciding on the new start date for the 2020 regular season.

League officials met with the board of governors, made up of presidents from the 10 clubs, earlier in the day to discuss the schedule. The season was slated to begin March 28 but has since been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

No final call was made at Tuesday's meeting, with the KBO scheduled to hold another board meeting next Tuesday.

An intrasquad game for the Lotte Giants is under way at Sajik Stadium in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on April 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

While the league is certainly encouraged by the recent drop in daily new cases -- the number has remained below 50 for the last six days -- it also feels it should wait out the national social distancing campaign, which ends Sunday, before going ahead with a new schedule. The government will decide later in the week whether to extend the drive or ease its intensity.

And by next Tuesday, the KBO should be able to make a decision on the start of the regular season, one way or another.

"We have to take into account the social distancing drive that's still in place," said Ryu Dae-hwan, KBO's secretary general. "We think it's still too early to determine the start date for our season. If the social distancing campaign gets extended, then it'll obviously affect our schedule."

And barring a sudden uptick in COVID-19 cases, the preseason will open next Tuesday as previously scheduled.

Teams will each play four games from next Tuesday through April 27. The league has scheduled games so that teams won't have to travel too far out of their city and their trips won't require an overnight stay in a road city.

All games will start at 2 p.m. and will be played without fans, due to lingering concerns over the coronavirus.

Back on March 10, with COVID-19 cases rising nationwide, the KBO wiped out its March 14-24 preseason schedule and postponed Opening Day indefinitely. Teams have been limited to playing intrasquad scrimmages at their home parks, with no fans permitted.

Since March 10, the KBO has been holding weekly meetings with team representatives -- either general managers or presidents -- to discuss the new start date and go over different scenarios, including shortening the 144-game season by as many as 36 games.

The KBO remains hopeful that it can salvage a full schedule, but Ryu acknowledged it'll be tough to squeeze 144 games into a compressed calendar if the new start date goes beyond early May.

Doubleheaders and games on Mondays, normally a designated off day in the KBO, remain possibilities, Ryu said.

"We'll be flexible with doubleheaders and Monday games," he added. "We're trying to determine what kind of impact they will have on the quality of play. But if we decide to play fewer than 144 games, then we probably won't have to play doubleheaders."

Chung Un-chan, commissioner of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), chairs a board of governors meeting with KBO club presidents at a convention hall in Seoul on April 14, 2020. (Yonhap)


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