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News Navigator: How are Japan's pro baseballers avoiding COVID-19 during spring training?

A Yomiuri Giants squad including core and veteran players starts the first day of the team's spring training at Tokyo Dome on Feb. 1, 2021. The team was split up into different groups during the training as a measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Mainichi/Naoya Tsunoda)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about COVID-19 prevention measures professional baseball players in Japan are taking as spring training is in full swing.

    Question: Is the coronavirus outbreak affecting baseball spring training season in Japan?

    Answer: Feb. 1, which marks the commencement of spring training, is dubbed "New Year's Day" for professional baseball players, and has special meaning for them. While all 12 teams managed to start their camps this year, they have been training without spectators. At the same time the teams are trying to prevent coronavirus infections in various ways. For example, the Yomiuri Giants started its training at four different stadiums in three locations to avoid crowded situations and close-contact settings.

    Q: What kind of measures are the teams taking?

    A: Players and people involved with the teams undergo polymerase chain reaction tests about once a week. Stadium staff members and reporters from media organizations also need to get tested regularly and prove that they are coronavirus-negative. Players are required to refrain from going out and dining out, and some teams have set rules on how to spend time at accommodation facilities and how to dine.

    Q: What about interactions with fans?

    A: For baseball fans, closeness with players is one of the appeals of spring training. In normal years, fans can see professional skills up close, interact with players while they move around within the camp grounds, and see the players relaxed, unlike during the regular season. This year, the teams are trying out different ideas such as broadcasting players training on TV or livestreaming it on the internet and allowing opportunities for fans to interact with players online.

    Q: I hope the day will come when the teams can practice in front of fans. How are the players taking this situation?

    Q: The "quiet" spring training has apparently perplexed some players. Yomiuri Giants' pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano commented, "It's difficult to raise my motivation, but I want to fire myself up in some way." Players say they can push themselves through the tough training thanks to the cheering of the fans. Though players won't be cheered on directly by fans this year, they are concentrating on building bodies to play through a long season and improving their technique.

    (Japanese original by Naoya Tsunoda, Sports News Department)

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