Japanese high school baseball tournament canceled for first time since World War II

Japan's beloved high school baseball tournament has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tournament is a huge annual event in Japan and is followed much the way Americans follow the college basketball tournament.

The Japanese High School Baseball Federation said the cancellation was the first since World War II.

"The decision is needed to protect the health of the players, officials and fans," Asahi newspaper president Masataka Watanabe said.

The high school tournament has showcased some of the biggest stars in Japanese professional baseball, including major leaguers like Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Matsui.

The summer tournament was scheduled to start in August at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya. A smaller spring tournament was previously canceled.