It may be halfway around the world, but live regular-season baseball is back.
Following a five-week delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is fielding its players. A league made up of 10 teams in eight cities is one of the first major sports leagues to resume play–baseball is being played in Taiwan–and while the MLB is on hold in North America, fans are tuning in to watch.
It’s not the ideal setup, but ESPN is airing six live games a week with multiple replays. During a time of many unknowns, ESPN is using live game feed from South Korea with its announcers calling the game from their homes in the United States.
In ESPN’S first game between the N.C. Dinos and Samsung Lions, which started with a rain delay, ended in a 4-0 win for the Dinos. Watching players who I’ve never heard of count the pitch was a relief. Former Phelipdephia Phillies and New York Mets outfielder Aaron Altherr, now of the Dinos, went 0-for-4. Still, Dinos starter Drew Rucinski, a former Miami Marlins pitcher, was incredible in six scoreless innings.
Then early Wednesday morning on ESPN2, the Doosan Bears defeated the L.G. Twins, 5-2.
But before these games, I had gone 52 days without watching a live sporting event. For me, that has to be a record. Sports consume my life. Every. Single. Day. Baseball, not typically my go-to game, has become the thing I most look forward to. Even with unfamiliar players, I find myself emotionally attached to it.Embed from Getty Images
Baseball is back and it’s live. And as therapeutic as it may seem to watch live sports again, it’s also a lesson as to when or if the MLB will return to action this season.
Fanless stadiums. Temperatures checked two times a day. Required to wear masks and gloves. High fives discouraged. No spitting. If a player tests positive for COVID-19, the league immediately shuts down for three weeks.
If the KBO finds success, will we see the MLB follow and begin play?
They’ll likely adopt many of the same precautions, but the United States is in a far worse spot with the global pandemic then South Korea is.
The United States has lost nearly 70,000 to COVID-19, with that number likely to grow. We haven’t seen the worst of it yet. But KBO is a look into the future.
In a recent study mentioned by the New York Times, nearly 170 million people age 12 or older identified themselves as MLB fans — the highest number in the past 25 years. Baseball has gotten America through some of the toughest of times. The Sept. 11 attacks. The Boston Bombings. The Houston hurricanes. We need to get that back.
No, the KBO is not MLB. But it is a joy to watch—a league known for its incredible fan culture; a mascot game so strong provides hope for what’s to come. While the present is so unfamiliar, the future will restore normalcy.
And, like that, sports are back even if it is 13 time zones ahead of the eastern U.S. and halfway across the world.