With the Major League Baseball (MLB) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) seasons on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some Americans have been able to satisfy their longing for live baseball by watching South Korea’s KBO League.
On Tuesday morning, ESPN aired its first KBO game after reaching an agreement with the league. One KBO game will air on the ESPN family of networks each day, Tuesday through Sunday. ESPN announced that the games will primarily air “on ESPN2 and on the ESPN App.” The broadcasts are in English, with ESPN commentators calling the games remotely from their homes.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 5, 2020
The KBO is attempting to play a full 144-game season despite starting six weeks late due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fans are not permitted in the stands.
However, the situation is different in South Korea than it is in the United States. The U.S., which has about six times South Korea’s population, has had over 1.2 million cases, more than 110 times the number of cases in South Korea.
South Korea has had two straight days with no new coronavirus cases and is just starting to ease social distancing measures. Overall there were about 10,800 cases and under 300 deaths there.
— Jane McManus (@janesports) May 5, 2020
MLB officials are hopeful that they can begin a modified, abbreviated season sometime in late June or early July. According to reports, MLB is considering a three-division, 10-team plan in which teams play only within their division, an idea that is gaining support from owners and executives. It would nix the traditional American and National Leagues for the 2020 season by realigning the divisions based on geography.
“We’ll continue to work internally against the backdrop of all the information and experience we can gather, and then hope to be able to work alongside the league to find that right spot in time to get us back on the field,” MLB Player’s Association (MLBPA) Executive Director Tony Clark told ESPN. “And we do hope it is sooner rather than later.”
Moreover, President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday morning that he is hopeful sports can resume soon, either with a limited number of fans or without fans at all.
“I hope baseball can get going but they won’t be going in full bore yet, hopefully in the not too distant future,” the President said before departing The White House for Honeywell’s plant in Arizona.
Aside from the 30 MLB teams, MiLB has more than 150 teams scattered across the nation. Hundreds, if not thousands, of employees are currently out of work with games postponed indefinitely.
Six months ago, MLB proposed the idea of reducing the number of affiliated MiLB clubs to 120, which would eliminate 42 teams across the country. About three months ago, Congress introduced a task force to focus on saving minor league baseball in those markets.