South Korea’s baseball league has kicked off its season with a pandemic-era twist.
The Korea Baseball Organization opened the game between the Lotte Giants and KT Wiz on Tuesday with a “socially distant first pitch” from a boy inside a big, clear bubble. Instead of throwing the ball, 9-year-old Lee Raon walked his bubble over to the catcher before the other players took the field.
Lee performed the ceremonial “pitch” before a stadium void of fans, Reuters reported. Coaches and referees wore masks, and players must have their temperatures taken before games.
The country’s baseball season launched after a five-week delay due to the coronavirus, which halted sporting events around the world. Life in South Korea is beginning to return to normal as people go back to work, museums and libraries reopen, and professional sports such as baseball and soccer start back up.
South Korea has all but eliminated the spread of coronavirus after initially facing one of the worst early outbreaks. The country, with a population of more than 50 million, has slowed its daily new cases to just a handful thanks to widespread tracing and testing measures.
As Major League Baseball in America remains shut down indefinitely, the KBO’s return might provide some relief to sports-starved U.S. audiences. In a deal with ESPN, viewers outside of South Korea will have the opportunity to follow the Korean league. Six games are set to be aired on the network each week.