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Earthquake/tsunami impacting Japanese pro baseball season

Nippon Professional BaseballTo play or not to play: that’s the issue facing players and owners in Nippon Professional Baseball, who are debating whether the season should start on schedule and under what circumstances, as rolling blackouts and homeless people are still big issues days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Two issues are at play: whether the beginning of the Central League season should be pushed back further (it’s already been pushed back to March 29 from the original March opening; critics say it should be slated for April 12, when the Pacific League season starts) and whether precious electricity should be used to fuel ballpark lights.

There’s always a debate whether pro sports should be played in a time of national disaster; the NFL postponed games in the wake of September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but Major League Baseball kept playing during World War II, as President Franklin Roosevelt urged the game to keep going, saying it would provide a boost in morale for those at home. (Minor League Baseball did not receive such a dispensation, shutting down for multiple seasons.)

If the season does begin, there’s another big issue to be addressed. Much of the country is being subjected to rolling blackouts, due to the decreased electrical capacity in Japan due to four nuclear power plants being offline. While you can argue ballpark lighting isn’t an especially huge consumption of electricity, it is a conspicuous consumer, and some argue night games should be shifted to day games to save electricity.

“I am asking myself if I can just go on playing when a majority of people in Japan are in trouble,” Nippon Ham Fighters star pitcher Yu Darvish told the Bangkok Post. “I am a baseball player and a human being as well. I cannot think about baseball alone as I normally do.”

A meeting among owners this Saturday should clear up the situation.

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