Okinawa pro baseball team faces unexpected problems in 1st season
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Coronavirus has changed everything for the Ryukyu Blue Oceans, Okinawa's first-ever professional baseball team, who opened their inaugural season in January.
The team in the southernmost prefecture of Japan resumed training on May 21, having been forced to suspend the 2020 season in April. But like many sports organizations around the globe it is still unsure of its next move.
The Blue Oceans were scheduled to play 50 games this year against Nippon Professional Baseball farm teams, corporate teams and the Taiwan national team, but its calendar has been wiped clean.
"We can't play games, and I'm afraid we'll be forgotten," said team founder and president Futoshi Kobayashi, a former pitcher for the DeNA Baystars.
With restricted access to stadium and training facilities, Blue Ocean players have been limited to individual workouts in public spaces such as parks.
Baseball clinics and fan gatherings, organized by the team hoping to build local community relationships, also had to be canceled.
Former Chunichi Dragons player Kyohei Kamezawa, who doubles as infield defense coach and infielder, continues to train at his new home in Ginowan city in central Okinawa despite being informed of a pay cut.
"I'm feeling anxious about the situation I've been put in. I want to play games soon," Kamezawa said.
No baseball would mean a huge financial blow for the new team, which is supported by 50 corporate partners and individual sponsors.