Nippon Professional Baseball to begin season on June 19

Baseballs before a Nippon Professional Baseball game
Mar 17, 2019; Tokyo, Japan; Baseballs sit atop a pitching machine as seen before the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Yomiuri Giants at Tokyo Dome. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Nippon Professional Baseball will begin its season in a few weeks with Japan’s top baseball league now scheduling its Opening Day for June 19, according to Kaz Nagatsuka of the Japan Times.

The decision comes more than three months after NPB officials postponed the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The league was set to hold Opening Day on March 20 before representatives from all 12 teams agreed to delay it until the global health crisis improved.

NPB made the call after the government’s advisory panel voted to end the country’s state of emergency. While baseball is now scheduled to return, fans will not be allowed to attend games in June, but teams and league officials hope they can start opening up stadiums later in the summer.

This marked the second time that the NPB suspended play due to a crisis. In 2011, the league suspended the start of the season after a devastating earthquake and tsunami led to the meltdown of nuclear reactors in Fukushima.

The NPB’s scheduled return is outstanding news for baseball fans in Japan, where the game remains immensely popular. It will also allow MLB fans to see many familiar faces, including former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.

MLB is still hoping to begin its 2020 season in early July, but the players’ union and team owners must agree to a plan before that happens. Fortunately, there is growing optimism that both sides will reach an agreement on safety protocols and a financial structure for a shortened season.