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Rob Smaal

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NPB fails to reach accord on pushing back Opening Day

by Rob Smaal (Mar 17, 2011)

Nippon Professional Baseball and its 12 member clubs were apparently unable to reach a consensus on whether to postpone Opening Day during extraordinary meetings Tuesday in Tokyo.

Friday's earthquake and tsunami, as well as the risk of contamination from leaked radiation at nuclear power plants in Fukushima, necessitated the special meetings. No official decision was announced after the talks ended.

The Central League reportedly still wants to start its regular season on March 25, but the Pacific League's Opening Day will likely be pushed back.

Damaged stadiums in Sendai and Chiba were unlikely to be safe to host games by March 25. Also, rolling power blackouts would make it difficult to hold large events like pro sports, particularly at night.

"It's only been four days since the earthquake," said NPB Commissioner Ryozo Kato. "Pro baseball needs to be a pillar of strength for the Japanese people. We need to act as one, provide support, and lift the spirits of the people."

A second set of meetings will be held in the next few days to make a formal decision on when to start the 2011 NPB season.

This could mark the first time since the two-league system began in 1950 that NPB has postponed Opening Day due to a natural disaster. Many preseason games since the earthquake have also been scrapped.

Several other sports have also been affected by the magnitude-9.0 earthquake with J.League soccer games being canceled and the World Figure Skating Championships, which were to take place in Tokyo next week, being postponed.

In other news from NPB related to the earthquake/tsunami disaster:

* Orix Buffaloes pitcher Park Chan-ho said he will donate 10 million yen to rescue efforts.

* The Buffaloes and Hanshin Tigers will each send 100 survival kits to affected areas.

* Chunichi Dragons catcher Motonobu Tanishige (2 million yen) and Fukuoka Hawks pitcher Toshiya Sugiuchi will both make cash donations.

* The Yomiuri Giants and Dragons have each raised 1 million yen for relief efforts.

* With the Rakuten Eagles' Kleenex Stadium in Sendai suffering earthquake damage, the Tigers have offered to lend them Koshien Stadium for some games. Hanshin made the same offer to the Chiba Lotte Marines.

* The Marines will donate money and hand-warmers to victims of the quake/tsunami.

* In the United States, Boston Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima started a campaign to raise funds for victims of the deadly quake.


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