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What the reopening of baseball in Japan could mean for MLB

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Japan’s professional baseball league is set to resume in mid-June.

2019 ALCS Game 3 - Houston Astros v. New York Yankees Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Baseball in South Korea began in early May, and now it seems Japan will be next. The Nippon Professional Baseball season will begin on June 19, commissioner Atsushi Saito announced Monday. The 2020 NPB campaign will begin without fans in attendance during the early stages, but the league will continue to monitor the situation in hopes of allowing spectators into the ballparks later in the summer.

The relaunched season won’t be without other changes as well, obviously. NPB normally plays 143 games during the regular season, but Saito said clubs would be aiming to complete 120. They have yet to officially release a schedule or the health/safety guidelines, but they have assured that a season will be held, and they will declare a NPB champion.

Along with those adjustments, interleague play between the Pacific League and the Central League has been eliminated and team will play exhibition games from June 2-14.

There’s no doubt that it’s encouraging for MLB fans to see another top-level professional league gearing up to resume play, but then again, those other leagues don’t have the tension that the league has with the MLB Players Association. However, things may be looking up for the start of Major League Baseball. On Saturday, New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state’s professional sports teams may begin spring training.

It’s a good sign for the Yankees and Mets as they both hope to open the regular season at their respective stadiums. Though it seems logical that both teams would begin spring training 2.0 at their facilities in Florida instead of New York, as many players are still stationed down south.

In fact, the Tampa Bay Rays held their first practice since March 17, which is a step in the right direction. Social distancing was enforced, as well as having each person get their temperature checked at the door, coaches and staff had to wear masks (and players, except when they were working out), and a makeshift weight room was on the outfield grass.

While the government may be giving the green light to sports to start back up, MLB and the MLBPA have many hurdles to clear before actually starting resuming play. We know that the money has been one of the biggest issues. Some of the game’s biggest stars such as Blake Snell, Bryce Harper and Nolan Arenado have stated that they will not play if their salary is reduced beyond the initial agreements that the union and MLB struck. Nonetheless, in the owner’s latest proposal, there is a 50/50 revenue split between the players and owners.

Some other notable components of the proposal approved by the owners and sent to the players union include an 82-game regional schedule and universal DH, 14 teams in the postseason with games played in home cities in October.

As stated before, South Korea and Japan don’t have the conflicting relationship that MLB and the MLBPA currently have, so it was easier for them to resume play. Not to mention that the United States has the most amount of coronavirus cases, while South Korea and Japan’s numbers aren’t nearly as high.

Will we have a Major League Baseball season this year? I wish I could tell you, but we’ve watched the KBO League play without fans for the past 3-4 weeks and it seems like the safety precautions they’re taking have been working. If MLB can follow the lead of the professional leagues that have returned to play, it could help them come back as well.