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PL delays Opening Day, CL sticks with March 25

by Rob Smaal (Mar 19, 2011)

As expected, it was announced Thursday that the Central League had officially decided to stick with its March 25 Opening Day, while the Pacific League will postpone its season-openers until April 12.

Originally, both leagues were due to start their regular seasons on March 25, but last Friday's large earthquake and tsunami threw those plans into disarray.

Stadiums in Sendai and Chiba both suffered damage in the March 11 magnitude-9.0 earthquake, and there is still a threat of wind-borne radiation from crippled nuclear plants in Fukushima.

Also, rolling power blackouts are in effect to conserve electricity in the Tokyo area and surrounding prefectures, and some train and subway lines are still experiencing delays.

The plan to start the CL season on schedule was opposed by the most of the players.

"I'm just frustrated that the (NPB) Players Association's request to delay the start of this season was not accepted," said player rep Takahiro Arai, an infielder with the Hanshin Tigers. "We also feel a need to encourage (the disaster victims) through baseball, but I don't think that playing at the present time is appropriate."

Some also view it as inappropriate to use large amounts of electricity to light baseball stadiums for night games. CL team officials, however, said they felt a responsibility to forge ahead in these trying times, and that money made from these games could be used to help the victims of the quake/ tsunami disaster.

"It's our responsibility, as people involved in (pro) baseball, to put on baseball games," said Junsei Atarashi, a Yakult Swallows official and head of Central League board.

Added Yokohama BayStars official Hiroshi Sasagawa: "We'll take swift action to cancel games if the government orders us to do so. We can respond to unanticipated situations. The number of games played by each team might be different when the season is over."

As for the Pacific League, it was determined that April 12 was as far back that they could push their Opening Day.

"It's the latest date that the PL can start and still complete 144 games and the Climax Series," said Tomoharu Inoue, the Rakuten Eagles' acting owner and head of the PL board.

The Eagles, who are based in Sendai at the heart of the tsunami disaster, will play their home games in Kobe to start the season. The club hopes to eventually resume games at Kleenex Stadium in Sendai once repairs are made.

"We want to play in Sendai as early as possible," said Inoue. "I believe we can do it this season."

Since the two-league system was implemented in 1950, this will mark the first time that an NPB Opening Day has been pushed back for reasons not weather-related.


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