In Taiwan, fans will be allowed to enter baseball stadiums to watch games for the first time this season as part of gradual easing of restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chinese Professional Baseball League, (CPBL), said up to 1,000 people would be permitted to enter stadiums on May 8th. This announcement came after an agreement between the league and Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center.
Other baseball leagues around the world were still suspended when games were being played in Taiwan last month. The league has been playing games in empty stadiums since play resumed in mid-April.
“One month has elapsed since the start of play on April 11. With the unity and co-operation of the government and the people, the epidemic in Taiwan has eased,” the CPBL said on its official website. “Welcome back fans!”
Taiwan can play games with fans because they have handled the COVID-19 pandemic extremely well. In a country with over 23 million people, they only tallied 439 total cases and now have just 100 active cases. They never had many cases, to begin with, because they enforced strict rules to prevent the spread early on. Taiwan has flattened its curve, as they only reported 11 new cases in the first week of May.
Taiwan’s baseball league said in a statement that they will sell tickets to designated seats. This makes it easier for authorities to trace people if there are any infections at the games. Fans will be required to undergo temperature checks and wear face masks. Seats will be kept one meter apart.
“Wear your mask properly and show our unity and discipline. Let the world see the pride of Taiwan,” the league wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday, adding it will be the world’s first professional baseball league to allow audiences back in.
Taiwan’s Chinese Professional Baseball League has only five teams, making it easier to resume play because travel is very limited.
The CPBL said it would continue to maintain high levels of epidemic prevention policies to “let baseball gradually return to Chinese life.”
Taiwan’s Baseball League has been barring spectators over concerns of spreading COVID-19 in a crowded area. However, due to Taiwan’s low number of cases, the league decided last month that it was safe to let in players, coaches, cheerleaders, mascots, batboys, and the media. They will have to wear masks, use sanitizer, and get daily checks from their team’s medical staff to protect themselves from getting the virus.
To ensure baseball fans are watching the games, the league encouraged teams to give their stadiums a realistic and lively vibe. That’s why they have cheerleaders and placards on the seats.
In Taiwan’s Taoyuan City, the Rakuten Monkeys charmed fans by placing 40 mannequins in the stands. They will be sent to local clothing stores once their duties are done.
The Monkeys, Taiwan Baseball League’s champions last season deployed six robots to bang drums along with the cheerleaders.
Baseball fans in America have been attracted to Taiwan’s five-team Chinese Professional Baseball League as Major League Baseball remains suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Online game commentary has been broadcast in English as well as Chinese this year to attract viewers from overseas who want to watch a live baseball season.
The Korean Baseball Organization, (KBO), joined the CPBL as the second baseball league to resume its 2020 season. The KBO hosted Opening Day on Tuesday with no fans in the stands.
MLB will watch closely as the KBO and CPBL begin their seasons to see what works and what does not work. They will certainly use the KBO and CPBL’s plans as a blueprint for their return to action plan. The CPBL resuming play with fans in the stadium reminds us that there is hope for the MLB season to start, even if it does not happen for another couple of months. For now, we can be grateful that we have a live baseball season to watch.