Baseball season in Taiwan opens amid COVID-19 as the first in the world

Baseball season in Taiwan opens amid COVID-19 as the first in the world
Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) Opening Day: The Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions defeated the Chinatrust Brothers, 4-1 in 11 innings, in Taichung. The regular season will run through 14 October. The All-Star Game has been cancelled for the first time in 31 years.

TAICHUNG, Taiwan -- The Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) opened its 2020 season on Monday, 13 April, as the first professional baseball organization in the world to proceed with its season under the outbreak of COVID-19.

The Chinatrust Brothers and Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions played 11 innings of baseball in front of empty seats at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium to mark the official start of baseball season. Chinatrust Brothers starter Ariel Miranda threw the first pitch of the 2020 season, and the Lions broke the 1-1 tie in the top of the eleventh to claim the victory, 4-1, in the first professional baseball game played in the 2020 season.

CPBL was originally scheduled to open its season on 14 March and planned to suspend the season for the Tokyo Olympic Final Qualifier scheduled in early April. After the outbreak of the pandemic, opening day was first pushed back to 28 March and then postponed again to 11 April. After consulting with local governments and medical authorities, CPBL decided to open the season closed-door and limit the number of persons including team members, league staff and media under 500 per game to comply with government’s pandemic prevention guidelines.

Taichung Mayor Shiow-Yen Lu stated: “We fully support the opening of the professional baseball season. The fact that we can have a baseball season reflects our solid achievement in coronavirus prevention. I also hope that this can be an encouragement and motivation to the world in fighting against the pandemic.”

Leagues and major tournaments across various sports have either been suspended, postponed or cancelled outright. Baseball leagues, including Major League Baseball (MLB), the Mexican Baseball League (LMB), Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), have all postponed the start of their seasons.

As the first and only running sports league in the world, CPBL has been receiving tremendous attention from international media and fans. More than 100 media members, including Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, EPA, Kyodo News Agency and NHK applied for credentials for season-opening games. International feeds of the games as well as English broadcasting were also made available internationally by the owners of CPBL television rights.

Under the impact of COVID-19, CPBL also announced the cancellation of its All-Star Game for the first time in its 31 years of history. The delayed season will run until 14 October while post-season play will start on 30 October and finish as late as 15 November.

CPBL is a WBSC Associate Member as is KBO, which is planning to open its season in May and NPB, which is eyeing its opening day in June.