Senbatsu replacement games start at Koshien Stadium

Hanasaki Tokuharu and Oita Shogyo players line up before a friendly at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, on Monday.

NISHINOMIYA, HYOGO PREF.(AUG 10, The Japan TIMES)– The 32 teams that had been selected for the canceled spring invitational high school baseball championship will get their chance to play at Koshien Stadium starting Monday, but in a new format.
The coronavirus outbreak has forced difficult decisions on the Japan High School Baseball Federation, which decided in June to invite the 32 teams to play at the iconic stadium in Hyogo Prefecture in a friendly series over a six-day period.
During the event, which is being held under strict physical distancing protocols, each school will play one game for a total of 16 games over the next week, instead of the usual knockout-style tournament. Four days are reserved in case of bad weather.
At the opening game between Oita Prefecture’s Oita Shogyo and Saitama Prefecture’s Hanasaki Tokuharu, the two team’s captains gave the sportsmanship pledge on behalf of their high schools in a stadium without spectators or brass bands.
In order to reduce the risk of infections, organizers established policies limiting the off-field movement of players and also canceled practice, ceremony rehearsal and the entrance procession.
A limited number of spectators, also including reserve players, family members and school officials, will be allowed.
The federation announced the cancellation of the senbatsu spring tourney in March and the cancellation of its even more popular summer version in May out of public health and safety concerns.
Many prefectural federations are holding independent events to replace the summer tournament.