Japan's baseball league delayed again; no date set for start

TOKYO -- Nippon Professional Baseball's season openers will not take place in May due to the coronavirus pandemic, with no firm date set for the start.

Representatives of the 12 teams also decided Friday to scrap interleague play. The removal of 18 interleague games from each team's calendar would make for a 125-game regular season.

Although no specific date had been set to start the season, the representatives agreed in an online meeting to not start before the end of May. The interleague games between the Central and Pacific leagues have started in May since the format was established in 2005.

"It was clear that we were going to have to reduce the number of games," said Shosaku Yokota of the Orix Buffaloes. "We decided that in such a case, it was best to protect league games."

Both leagues were originally scheduled to open play March 20. Opening day was then reset for April 10 and then again for April 24. Earlier this month, the teams gave up on fixing a starting time.

This year's original early start was designed to allow for a three-week break in the summer for the Tokyo Olympics. After the March 24 announcement that the Olympics would be postponed until next year, that break was no longer needed, and teams still held out hope of playing a full 143-game schedule. That hope ended Friday.

Taiwan's four-team Chinese Professional Baseball League opened its season last weekend with games played without spectators.