KBO preseason finally under way but without any fans

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KBO preseason finally under way but without any fans

It’s time to play ball in Korea — some preseason ball, that is.

The KBO will open a truncated exhibition season today, with its 10 clubs scheduled to play four games each through April 27.

The coronavirus outbreak forced the KBO to wipe out its original March 14-24 preseason and also postpone its March 28 opening day. But a recent decline in new Covid-19 cases has allowed the league to reschedule its preseason, and it’s expected to announce the new regular season schedule today following a meeting with its board of governors, made up of club presidents. The 2020 regular season could begin as early as May 1.

The KBO received a further boost from the government on Sunday, with Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun easing some social distancing guidelines and saying outdoor sports games could be played without fans.

The league had already planned to hold all preseason games without fans in order to prevent the spread of the virus. And the early portion of the regular season will also be held behind closed doors.

Since the end of spring training in late February or early March, teams have been limited to playing intrasquad games at their own stadiums. They’ve been alternating between practices and scrimmages for about a month, and now they’ll finally get to face someone other than their own teammates.

All 20 games will be televised on cable or terrestrial networks. All games were initially scheduled to start at 2 p.m., but 10 of them have been switched to a 6 p.m. first pitch, as teams wanted to get accustomed to playing under the lights before the regular season.

The new preseason will ensure a minimum amount of traveling, and only those in close proximity to one another will square off so that they won’t have to spend the night in a road city.

For instance, three clubs in Seoul, the Doosan Bears, LG Twins and Kiwoom Heroes, will only play one another plus the SK Wyverns in Incheon, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of the capital, and the KT Wiz in Suwon, Gyeonggi, some 45 kilometers south of Seoul.

Not all pitchers will be available for the preseason. Five of the 10 teams — the Twins, the Heroes, the Hanwha Eagles, the KT Wiz and the Samsung Lions — had their foreign pitchers return to their home countries after spring training and then return to Korea in late March. Upon arriving back, they were ordered into a two-week self-quarantine.

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