Korean baseball league kicks off in empty stadiums

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SEOUL, South Korea – The cheerleaders danced under rows of empty seats and the referees wore protective masks as a new season of the Korea Baseball Organization began in South Korea.

After a week’s delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, a muffled atmosphere allowed sounds, such as the ball hitting the catcher’s glove and the bat to strike the ball for a single or double, to resonate around the Stadium.

There were faces in the stands during a match on Tuesday – photos placed in the seats – because fans are not allowed into the halls at this time.

As a result, it was easy to hear players clapping and shouting canoes. It was a relief to fans watching from home in a country that is now trying to slowly return to pre-COVID-19 normalcy amid a diminishing workload.

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

As one of the first major professional sports competitions in the world to resume operations in the midst of the pandemic, the KBO League has used preventative measures to create safe gaming environments.

Players and coaches undergo fever tests before entering the stadiums, and the referees and coaches for first and third goals must wear masks during matches. Players are prohibited from high-level teammates or signing autographs. It was forbidden to chew tobacco to avoid spitting. Latex masks and gloves are required in training centers.

Fans will be excluded from games until the KBO is satisfied that the risk of infection has been minimized. If a team member is positive for the coronavirus at any time during the season, the league will be closed for at least three weeks.

On Tuesday, the teams tried to create a festive atmosphere in the empty stadiums.

In a match in the capital, the LG-based LG Twins opened its doors against rival and reigning champion Doosan Bears at Jamsil Baseball Stadium, where the outdoor seating areas were adorned with huge banners of the acclaimed Twins’ slogans. .

In Incheon, SK Wyverns imitated a home crowd by covering the outside field seats with rows of horizontal banners showing the faces of fans wearing Wyverns caps and masks as they hosted the Daejeon Hanwha Eagles.

In Daegu, the city hardest hit by the virus, local team Samsung Lions used its huge dashboard to read video messages from players, celebrities and fans thanking doctors and medical staff for fighting the disease. epidemic, which overwhelmed hospital capacity in the city in late February and March before slowing in recent weeks. The Lions game against Changwon’s NC Dinos was broadcast on ESPN. The NC Dinos won, 4-0.

A full baseball season seemed dubious in early March, when South Korea reported around 500 new cases of coronavirus per day, forcing the KBO to postpone its openings for the March 28 season.

But South Korea only reported three new cases on Tuesday, its lowest daily jump since infections increased in late February. Experts attribute the downward trend to tightening border controls and active efforts to test and isolate virus carriers and find their contacts, using medical, banking and immigration records and location information provided by the police and telecommunications companies.

Authorities have started to soften guidelines on social distancing and are preparing to reopen schools, starting with high school students on May 13.

Unless suspensions are linked to a virus, the KBO plans to maintain a schedule of 144 regular season games. However, he decided to cut his all-star game and shorten the first round of the playoffs from best of five to best of three.

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