While it normally wouldn’t sound like overwhelmingly exciting news, the idea that ESPN might soon be reaching a broadcast deal with the Korean Baseball Organization could mean that Americans may finally have their chance to see live games, ending a hiatus of live baseball that began for some as early as late last year.
The report behind the rumor originated with the Yonhap News Agency in Seoul on Monday, although the main source of the information has decided to remain anonymous.
This latest news surrounding a prospective agreement comes less than a week after ESPN’s negotiations with the KBO were apparently shut down. Initial information indicated that ESPN was seeking the broadcast rights for free, but that inquiry was nixed by Eclat, the entity that owns the international distribution rights for KBO games.
The specifics are still vague, but according to Yonhap reports, ESPN would be airing multiple games per week until Major League Baseball begins to gear up for its season, if a 2020 MLB Opening Day eventually becomes a reality.
Details regarding the exact duration of the deal and proposed financial terms were not immediately revealed.
According to the YNA website, the KBO’s regular season is scheduled to begin on May 5, more than a month after being pushed back from the original March 28 Opening Day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be the second pro baseball league to begin during the pandemic. The Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan was the first to resume its regular season activities.
Steve Adams at MLBTR highlighted some of the parameters that might conceivably take place with regards to health and safety standards. Adams stated that there will be multiple health regulations in place, including “multiple tests per player prior to games, no spitting allowed, players and personnel in masks throughout the stadium except on the field/in the dugout, gloves and masks for umpires, along with a strong discouragement of handshakes and high-fives.”
Adams went on further, writing that “a player showing symptoms of COVID-19 will be immediately be tested and quarantined, while his stadium would be subject to a 48-hour closure for cleaning. A positive test from a player wouldn’t necessarily shut down the league but would prompt an immediate meeting between owners, league officials and health experts about the potential stoppage of play.”
Several notable players currently participating in the KBO who were previously affiliated with the MLB include former Dodgers infield prospect Jose Miguel Fernandez, righty pitcher Raul Alcantara and outfielder Aaron Altherr.
The idea that American fans—as well as viewers from other parts of the world—might soon get at least a weekly fix of live baseball from one of the world’s most renowned leagues should provide a much needed dose of live sports entertainment during this especially trying time.