Japan to extend postponements of pro baseball, soccer seasons

TOKYO -- The Japanese professional baseball and soccer seasons will be further delayed as the country grapples with the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Japanese professional baseball had aimed to open its season on April 24 after previously pushing it back from March 20.

After a meeting Friday of a joint coronavirus task force established by Nippon Professional Baseball and soccer's J-League, Japanese baseball commissioner Atsushi Saito said there was no option but to postpone opening day again.

"Unfortunately things are getting worse now," Saito said. "We'll have a meeting with all 12 teams, but it appears like we'll have to be prepared for an extension [to our postponement]."

After briefly starting in February, the J-League's first and second divisions suspended play later in the month.

J-League chairman Mitsuru Murai said it would be difficult to go ahead with the planned restart of the first division on May 9.

"I think it's unrealistic to say that we can hold the games as scheduled," Murai said.

A number of NPB and J-League players have been infected with the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, Japan and Vissel Kobe defender Gotoku Sakai became the first player from the J-League to test positive for COVID-19. That followed last week's announcement that three players from NPB's Hanshin Tigers had also tested positive.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

Tokyo confirmed 97 more cases on Thursday, the largest single-day number of infections yet in the capital. Japan has recorded more than 2,600 cases of COVID-19 and 63 deaths from the disease.