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High schools asked not to collect dirt from Japan's iconic baseball stadium amid virus

Players of Akashi Commercial High School in Hyogo Prefecture collect dirt at Hanshin Koshien Stadium after losing in the quarterfinal of the 101st National High School Baseball Championship, on Aug. 20, 2019. (Mainichi/Kentaro Ikushima)

OSAKA -- The Japan High School Baseball Federation on Aug. 3 announced it will ask teen ballplayers to refrain from collecting dirt from the iconic Hanshin Koshien Stadium during six days of friendly games from Aug. 10, as a preventative measure against the novel coronavirus.

    Collecting dirt from the stadium is a customary practice among high school baseball players when they participate in the invitational tournament there in spring and the national championship in the summer. This year, both tournaments were canceled due to the pandemic but a series of ball games will be held for the 32 high school teams that qualified for this year's invitational.

    The federation has concluded that there will not be time during the six-day event for the players to collect dirt, due to coronavirus countermeasures such as making sure that all players leave the stadium before the next teams enter, and disinfecting benches in the dugouts. After consulting with the stadium management, the organization plans to send the dirt to each participating school after the games.

    Meanwhile, it was decided that the winning team in each game will be able to sing their school anthem -- another custom at high school baseball tournaments -- while maintaining a wider distance than usual between the players.

    (Japanese original by Takeshi Fujita, Osaka Sports News Department)

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