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2020 Chinese Professional Baseball League preview: Taiwan’s Opening Day is today

Baseball is back! But only on the breakaway island off the coast of China for now. We break down the four-team league that will have robot fans!

Outfielder Chih Hao Chang of CTBC Brothers hitting with zero audience at the court during the CPBL preseason game between CTBC Brothers and Wei Chuan Dragons at the Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium on March 15, 2020 in Taichung, Taiwan. Preseason games of Taiwan’s professional baseball are held behind closed doors. Photo by Gene Wang/Getty Images

Baseball is back! And it might not have the beauty of MLB ballparks or even the best players, and there won’t be any fans yet either, but the Chinese Professional Baseball League kicks off play in the nation of Taiwan on Saturday!

The schedule, format, and playoffs

The four-team league plays a 120-game schedule, with a split-season format where the winner of the first half and the winner of the second half of the season qualify for the playoffs. There’s also a wild card team added, and they’ll play a five-game series against the half-season winner with the worst record. If any team wins both ends of the season, they’ll start the seven-game Taiwan Series with a 1-0 lead over their eventual opponent, and two wild card teams will make the playoffs.

The five teams are all owned by companies, and games are played both in the towns where the company is based and at neutral venues.

The teams

  • Chinatrust Brothers
  • Fubon Guardians
  • Rakuten Monkeys
  • Uni Lions

The Wei Chuan Dragons are playing minor league ball only this year, and will return to full CPBL status next season — for the first time since 1999.

Rakuten, the reigning champions who take over as the Monkeys new sponsor in 2020, is at least planning on having some fun without fans in the stands. They’re bringing in 500 robots to sit in the stands during games and to cheer on the team. Also they’re keeping the “fans” at least six feet apart from each other as if social distancing. It’s either going to be hilarious or creepy, and we can’t wait to find out which.

If you want to watch the games, there’s a site if you’d like to pay $35 for the season, but most games are also available on Yahoo Sports Taiwan. Check your local listings — but America’s pastime is officially back, just not in America yet.

And if you’re looking for even more hardball soon, the Korea Baseball Organization is planning for Spring Training to start April 21st, with an Opening Day scheduled for sometime in May. The league is attempting to play a complete 144-game season as well.