After a weeks-long delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, the most popular baseball season began Tuesday in South Korea, with umpires wearing protective masks and cheerleaders danced beneath rows of unoccupied seats as professional baseball got back on the field. There were many faces in the stands in at least one stadium, but they were videos & pictures instead of real people because fans weren’t allowed inside. While games are being played without fans for now, officials said the KBO hopes to begin allowing attendance levels up to 20 percent capacity, with incremental increases from there. The league’s stadiums hold between 13,000 and 27,000 fans. While the KBO hopes to play a full 144-game schedule, its season comes with a caveat: It will be paused for at least three weeks if any member of a team tests positive for COVID-19. That could provide a return-to-play road map for MLB.
The country’s professional soccer leagues will kick off Friday, also without spectators in the stadiums. As one of the world’s first major professional sports to return to action amid the pandemic, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is working to create safe playing environments. Players and coaches go through fever screenings before entering stadiums. Umpires and base coaches must wear masks during games. Masks and latex gloves will be required at training facilities.