Baseball season resumes in South Korea

INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 05: Eagles players wear masks before the Korean Baseball Organisation (KBO) League opening game between the Wyverns and Eagles at the empty Happy Dream Ballpark on May 05, 2020 in Incheon, South Korea.
INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 05: Eagles players wear masks before the Korean Baseball Organisation (KBO) League opening game between the Wyverns and Eagles at the empty Happy Dream Ballpark on May 05, 2020 in Incheon, South Korea.

One of the world's first major professional sports competitions has returned to the field following a five-week delay caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Korea Baseball Organisation has employed various measures aimed at creating safe playing environments, with players and coaches being screened before entering stadiums, umpires required to wear face masks and the chewing of tobacco banned to prevent spitting.

The KBO suspended the league season ahead of the openers on March 28, but insist the league will be halted for a further three weeks if any member of a team tests positive for the coronavirus during the rescheduled 144-game season.

This Friday will also see the resumption of the K-League football season in the country.

Fans are currently banned from attending matches, but despite this, teams have still attempted to build atmospheres inside empty stadiums as they’re broadcast live.

INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 05: The stands at Wyverns club's Happy Dream Ballpark, are filled with placards featuring their fans during the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game between Wyverns and the Eagles at the empty Happy Dream Ballpark on May 05, 2020 in Incheon, South Korea.
INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 05: The stands at Wyverns club's Happy Dream Ballpark, are filled with placards featuring their fans during the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) League opening game between Wyverns and the Eagles at the empty Happy Dream Ballpark on May 05, 2020 in Incheon, South Korea.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Seats at the Jamsil Stadium in Seoul – hosting Twins against defending champions Bears – were decked with large banners of the Twins’ slogans, whilst at Incheon, the Wyverns covered their stands with large images of fans wearing hats and masks as they hosted the Eagles.

Elsewhere, the Lions in Daegu used their jumbo screens to display video messages of appreciation to doctors and medical staff fighting the outbreak from players, fans and celebrities.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 09: Pitcher Hyeon-jong Yang #54 of Korea throws in the bottom of the first inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool A Game Six between South Korea and Chinese Taipei at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 9, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea.
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MARCH 09: Pitcher Hyeon-jong Yang #54 of Korea throws in the bottom of the first inning during the World Baseball Classic Pool A Game Six between South Korea and Chinese Taipei at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 9, 2017 in Seoul, South Korea.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Three to watch for Tokyo 2020

As hope slowly returns to a country attempting to return to pre-Covid-19 normalcy, conversations can at last turn to batting averages, home runs and pitches… and who will wear the famous national jersey next Summer.

Baek-ho Kang: The 20-year-old left fielder for KT Wiz is widely considered a rising star in the game and won the KBO League Rookie of the Year Award in 2018.

Hyeon-Jong Yang: Despite not being selected for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Yang is now considered the #1 pitcher for the Korean team for Tokyo 2020 and won the KBO Most Valuable Player Award for the 2017 season.

Hyun-Soo Kim: The outfielder was one of the youngest players at Beijing 2008 and is the current captain of the national team. He played in the MLB for the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies but returned to Korea in 2018 and currently plays for the Twins.