The summer of 2020 has been nothing short of chaos for Major League Baseball. MLB’s original March 26th Opening Day, which was put on hold due to a worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus, seems like a long-gone memory at this point, as MLB and the Major League Baseball Player’s Association have yet to cement a plan of return.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred recently said during an interview with ESPN that he’s “not confident” about baseball returning in 2020. This quote came less than a week after Manfred was quoted saying during a telecast of the MLB draft that the likelihood of baseball returning was “one-hundred percent.”
While MLB has failed to come forth with a formidable return plan, baseball has continued to be played overseas in South Korea’s baseball league, the KBO. While South Korea went through its own quarantine process and the KBO had its own virus-induced stoppage of play, the league’s Opening Day occurred on May 5th after the country made a point of seeking out intensive testing, contact tracing, and virus-containing isolation.
In the KBO, coaches and other non-player personnel have taken caution by wearing masks on the field and in the dugout. According to Jeeho Yoo (@Jeeho_1 on Twitter), a writer with the Yonhap News Agency, the league planned to transition from the empty stadiums they began the season with to selling approximately thirty percent of seats, allowing fans to maintain a proper social distance while returning to the ballpark. Unfortunately, a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country has put that plan on hold.
Instead of filling the seats with fans, some teams have chosen to be a little more creative. The Hanwha Eagles have been placing stuffed animals in the seats behind home plate during their home games, while the NC Dinos have been placing cardboard cutouts of former players, mascots, celebrities, and even fans behind home plate.
A quick look at almost any social media platform can get one acquainted to the fact that the lack of MLB games being played this summer has been driving fans crazy. While a number of fans have already adopted the KBO, some temporarily and some permanently, watching games live can be a challenge. There’s a thirteen-hour time difference between Eastern Daylight Time and Korean Standard Time, meaning the typical 6:30 PM start time of a KBO game makes for a 5:30 AM start here in the United States.
ESPN has already made an effort for marketing KBO towards an international audience, broadcasting one of the five daily matchups in the six-day KBO week. So far this season, the reigning-champion Doosan Bears and the red-hot NC Dinos have led the league in ESPN appearances.
Dan Kurtz (@MyKBO on Twitter) has run a service for English speakers who would like to learn more about the KBO and join in the league’s evergrowing fandom since 2014, called MyKBO Stats. Kurtz’s work has been a lifesaver for countless international baseball fans and is well-deserving of the attention of anyone looking to buy into this league.
Photo Credit: Yonhap News