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Central League to start April 12

by Jim Allen (Mar 25, 2011)

The Central and Pacific leagues are once more scheduled to start on the same day.

After a week of wrangling, the CL on Thursday signed on to opening its 144-game regular season schedule on April 12. In light of the current shortage of electrical power, the league also abandoned the idea of playing April night games in the Kanto and Tohoku regions.

The CL, which had earlier proposed abolishing extra-inning games, adopted the PL proposal of not starting a new extra inning 3-1/2 hours later than the start of a game.

On March 18, the government had requested teams refrain from playing night games in areas affected by rolling blackouts. The CL's original plan, to hold off on night games until April 5, was criticized by government officials this week.

"We [NPB teams] said from the start that we would follow government guidance, and our stance reflects that," said Junsei Atarashi, who currently chairs the CL board of directors. "The six [CL] teams are as one."

The 12 teams' owners will meet on Saturday to give their approval of the leagues' decision.

Yomiuri Giants representative Hidetoshi Kiyotake said this means his team will not play at Tokyo Dome until May.

"There is no appreciable difference [in energy consumption at Tokyo Dome] between night and day games," Kiyotake said after an extraordinary session of the CL's board of directors.

Kiyotake said the delayed start was made possible by a promise of cooperation from the players union.

"I'm very appreciative of the players association, because without their promise we would not be able to slide the schedule back by two weeks," he said.

Players association chief Takahiro Arai had requested both leagues start at the same time and had promised to play until December if it was necessary for each team to play 144 games, including interleague, and complete a full postseason calendar.

The rush to get that all in leaves this year's Asian Series, set for November in Taiwan, in doubt.

"We have been focused on how we can complete our postseason, a full Climax Series and Japan Series," Atarashi said.

"We haven't really thought how we might manage that [the Asian Series]."

Kiyotake said switching from night to day games would make things difficult for the other teams in the Kanto region, as well.

"It's not just us," he said. "This is going to be difficult for Yakult and Yokohama, too."

The Swallows share Jingu Stadium with two university leagues. During their spring and fall seasons, the university teams reserve Jingu six days a week.

"You can say it will be hard on the teams, but it is also going to be hard on the players," Kiyotake said.

"There will be many games in a row and doubleheaders. That wouldn't be possible without the cooperation of the players union, and we are grateful for it."

Meanwhile, the Saitama Seibu Lions announced their opening series will be moved from Seibu Dome to Sapporo Dome.

The two Lions' night games will become a three-game series hosted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.


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