SEOUL (Reuters) - The twanging sound of bat hitting ball pierced the eerie silence of an empty baseball stadium as a Lotte Giants player wearing a white surgical mask doubled to right field during an in-house practice game on Monday.
The game was aired live online by the club after the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) postponed the start of the season from March 28 to April 20 and canceled all pre-season games amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
The 10 clubs in the league are not allowed to hold practice games against each other at least until the government’s intensive social distancing campaign ends on April 6.
But they can play intra-team games without audiences and broadcast them live to fans enduring an unprecedentedly lengthy off season.
Four clubs aired games on Monday with the Seoul-based LG Twins drawing about 5,500 viewers.
Many of the Giants’ players were wearing masks even as they sprinted for a base after a hit.
“We want to show you how much we had prepared for the season but it is too bad that the situation wouldn’t allow it,” Giants outfielder Son Ah-seop said during a visit to the broadcasting booth.
“But please take care and be a little more patient. We hope to hear your chanting as soon as possible.”
South Korea has suffered Asia’s biggest coronavirus pandemic outside China, though it has largely managed to bring growth in new infections under control after a big early surge.
Soccer’s K League delayed the start of its new season while men’s basketball and men’s and women’s volleyball ended their seasons early without playoff games.
Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, editing by Ed Osmond