Exactly one month and a day after the Tohoku-region of Japan was struck by a magnitude 9 earthquake and its subsequent tsunamis, both leagues of NPB will begin their seasons. For all of our readers who only follow us through this site, let me reassure that all four of us and our families are safe in Tokyo. We’d like to thank all of you who have taken time to ask about our well being. Those of you who follow us on Facebook and Twitter, will have no doubt noticed our occasional posts about the various baseball issues that popped up as a result of the earthquake. Before I quickly summarize what has happened to Japanese baseball since the earthquake, I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to our readers to help out the people of the Tohoku region who, even a month after the disaster, live in a great state of uncertainty. Tsubamegun’s own Garrett wrote a nice article on our sister site, Japan Eats, on how you can help.
Baseball-wise, the quake has affected a number of things. Firstly the need to save energy has lead to the introduction of a few rules to limit game times. Games will still end in a tie if the teams are tied after 12 innings, but now games will not go into further extra innings after three and a half hours. The clock will begin to tick from the first pitch, not the scheduled start time, and will not be stopped for delays such as rain, wind, fog and other troubles. In the event that a game is ended early because of a blackout the game will be called.
The quake has pushed the schedule back a few weeks and the damage has necessitated the following changes to the schedule. For the month of April teams playing in areas of lower power (basically Eastern Honshu) will be playing day games in order to avoid using power-sucking lights. The NPB executive committee has said that the schedule will proceed as normal and allow teams in the affected areas to play night game in May. It is quite possible, however, that the schedule will be changed once the government announces its energy savings plans for the summer months, when peak energy usage increases 50% from current usage. Games that were cancelled due to the quake have been rescheduled to October, therefore the start of the Climax Series will be pushed accordingly to the end of October. The Nippon Series is expected to be played around November 12.
There are still a lot of unknowns surrounding how baseball will proceed this year, but hopefully it will allow people to forget about their troubles, if only for a short while, and that games will be able to be used as a vehicle for further charity and awareness activities for those in need. We here at Tsubamegun intend to keep on plugging along and bring you the best Swallows coverage starting with our season opener against the Giants later on tonight.