Sick minor leaguer tests negative for coronavirus

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Sick minor leaguer tests negative for coronavirus

The Korean baseball league breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday after an ill minor leaguer tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

The Kiwoom Heroes of the KBO said the player, with their Futures League affiliate Goyang Heroes, will remain quarantined in his team dormitory for 14 days. Both Kiwoom and Goyang were forced to suspend all baseball activities on Monday and will now resume training on Thursday.

The player, who remained unidentified, had a fever of 38.3 degrees Celsius (100.9 degrees Fahrenheit) when he was checked on Monday before entering the team’s practice facility in Goyang, Gyeonggi, just west of Seoul. The player was immediately tested at a nearby drive-through station.

Following the news of the player’s test, another KBO club, the Doosan Bears, also suspended practice. The Bears’ minor league team shared the same Asiana Airlines chartered flight with the Kiwoom and Goyang Heroes on their way back from Taiwan last week, with Goyang’s ill player aboard. Some of Doosan’s minor leaguers had come into contact with Doosan’s KBO players during recent practice sessions.

Now that the player has tested negative, the Bears, too, will return to action on Thursday. While the two Seoul-based clubs can restart their practices, two other KBO clubs - SK Wyverns and NC Dinos - are on alert as an employee of a subcontractor working with both teams tested positive for the virus. Although no athletes had direct contact with the employee, both teams canceled their practices immediately.

The KBO was also sitting on the edge of its seat, awaiting the test results. The league has already canceled the preseason and delayed the start of the regular season. The season was originally scheduled to start on March 28, but there’s no word yet on when it will begin, as the KBO, like other sports leagues, faces more questions than answers in the nationwide battle against the virus.

The KBO is hoping to start the season by mid-April at the latest and still play 144 games in a compressed schedule.

The MLB is taking an entirely different approach than the KBO. In its latest announcement on Monday, local time, the major league said that the start of the 2020 regular season will be pushed back, once again, based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The CDC has urged a nationwide halt of any gatherings consisting of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak,” the website said.

This means that the season will be postponed to May at the earliest. In terms of the number of games, the MLB said in its statement that “the clubs remain committed to playing as many games as possible.”

As the MLB recently suspended all spring training, all 30 clubs are taking different approaches in terms of preseason warm-ups. Some are staying together as a team, while other players are training on their own at home or at their spring training camp sites.

Most KBO teams have returned home from their overseas spring training. With no preseason games scheduled, teams have been practicing at their home parks or out-of-town facilities, with occasional intrasquad games thrown in. In most cases, practice sessions have been open to the media, who are required to go through fever checks and fill out health questionnaires before entering team properties.

BY KANG YOO-RIM, YONHAP [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]

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