Japanese baseball season to start on June 19 without fans

In this Feb. 29, 2020, file photo, spectators' stands are empty during a play in a preseason baseball game between the Yomiuri Giants and the Yakult Swallows at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo. (Eugene Hoshiko/AP)

TOKYO — Japan’s professional baseball season will open on June 19 under a plan that excludes fans.

League commissioner Atsushi Saito made the announcement on Monday after an online meeting with representatives of the league’s 12 teams.

The announcement came as the state of emergency was lifted in Tokyo and on the northern island of Hokkaido by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The state of emergency was lifted earlier this month for other parts of the country.

Teams can being practice games on June 2.

“I hope we can provide some guidance for sports other than professional baseball,” Saito said. “It is important to operate cautiously according to our guidelines”.

The season was to have begun on March 20 but the start was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Japan has reported about 850 deaths from COVID-19.

Japan joins South Korea and Taiwan whose leagues are open and playing largely without fans.

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