Could South Korea key an MLB Return?

Baseball is back(!) in Korea.

Something a lot of North American sports fans are hoping for but are completely unaware of is that professional baseball is back and being played competitively in South Korea. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) began play a few weeks ago and the MLB can look to them to see how America’s Pastime can come back once again in a COVID-19 world. 

While all the professional KBO clubs are playing in their home ballparks, they are doing so without fans present in the stadiums. This has already been discussed as an option for Major League Baseball and seems to be the quickest way to get games played again sooner than later. Umpires are wearing face masks and gloves and following the social distancing and healthy best practices. To this point, seem to have gone smoothly. No new cases have been reported among league personnel as of this weekend and many former MLB players are showcasing their skills in the KBO while their former colleagues are waiting for the MLB’s plan to return. 

While following state and local government policies to return to work are important, the MLB is in a position to work with these agencies and grant exemptions for their clubs to get back and give communities and cities their teams back on television. Whether these players return next week or eight weeks from now, they are going to need to follow some of the examples set forth by Korean Baseball Organization clubs. The game has a golden opportunity to set a great example to Americans and the world how to return to the new normal life and best practices in their return.  

The concerns of players’ health are legitimate, but outbreaks aren’t likely to occur, with top of the line medical staffs in play. As we saw in the NBA, a single player testing positive and playing games with the virus, did not necessarily result in a widespread outbreak within his clubhouse or around the league. Just as the MLB Players Association and clubs have kept players home when they are stricken with other illness, similar more severe restrictions and quarantine would be result of any players testing positive. 

A lot has been made of players needing to be separated from their families when they are playing, but that seems to be unrealistic and overblown in speculation. Health-care workers, nursing home employees, and many other professions that are working amongst infected people are still in contact with their households and sharing beds with spouses. Any decision to remain separated from family would seem to be up to the individual players and their families. 

ESPN was negotiating with KBO in attempt to gain access to broadcast their baseball games in the United States for sports-starved Americans. Fans can hope that instead Major League Baseball and state governors will work to develop plan for MLB teams to return to the field in the month of May with a season to begin in early June. Baseball fans and Americans need a return of their nation’s pastime this summer. It can be done responsibly with Korea leading the way, and setting the example for MLB to follow. 

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