Baseball is on its way back… in South Korea.
As ESPN first reported, the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) has begun playing intrasquad scrimmages with exhibition games slated to begin on April 21 while the rest of the sporting world remains shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After six of those preseason games, the regular season could start as long as everyone stays healthy.
“If anybody, anybody — if the No. 1 starting pitcher to the person cleaning, security, R&D — anybody gets sick in that time, we postpone two weeks,” former MLB pitcher Dan Straily, currently with the KBO’s Lotte Giants, told ESPN. “We’ve got to make sure that no one else got sick.”
Suddenly, South Korea is the envy of the United States, who has seen Major League Baseball’s Opening Day pushed back for the first time in the game’s history without a set return date as of yet.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for the Asian nation of 50 million, which once looked as though it was going to be completely overwhelmed by the virus as little as five weeks ago.
On Feb. 20, 111 positive cases were confirmed in the country. Nine days later, after 909 new cases were reported on Feb. 29, that number exploded to 3,150.
Three days later, more than 2,000 new cases were reported.
As numbers skyrocketed, South Korea and its citizens went to work together, taking strong, sweeping actions to limit the outbreak and “flatten the curve.”
Widespread testing and contact tracing were instituted by their government, infected patients had to download an app that tracked their movements. If they left their homes, they would be fined $2,500.
While the healthy public was allowed out of their homes, they were tasked in wearing facemasks and practicing social distancing — ideas that have been instituted in the United States but not completely practiced.
You can blame that on the lack of governmental organization or the overwhelming number of citizens who have developed an unreasonable sense of entitlement and indestructibility that shows they care more about personal interests than their neighbors.
Either way, you can’t go wrong.
So while South Korea’s coronavirus numbers dropped drastically — fewer than 80 cases were reported over the last two days — the United States is hoping to reach an apex of the outbreak in the coming weeks. All while President Donald Trump drags his feet on passing executive stay-at-home orders and Americans go out and infect each other to stock up on toilet paper or guns.
This is an elementary case of cause and effect, people.
South Koreans are going to be rewarded with a return of regular-season baseball much sooner rather than later — roughly six weeks after one of its worst days of the coronavirus pandemic.
Americans — many of whom are resembling petulant children throwing a tantrum because they have to stay home while heroic medical professionals risk their lives to suppress the spread of an incurable virus — don’t know when baseball will come back. They won’t even be able to attend a sporting event until August or September; and that’s based on the President’s unfounded, unproven hopes.
I’ve said it plenty of times over the last few weeks: Sports are trivial during these difficult times. But we aren’t helping our cause, either, when it comes to gaining the smallest shred of normalcy in baseball and sports.