Baltimore Orioles: Learning from the NPB & Positive COVID Tests

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: Adam Jones #10 of the Baltimore Orioles watches the game in the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 13, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 13: Adam Jones #10 of the Baltimore Orioles watches the game in the ninth inning against the Oakland Athletics at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 13, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /
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Several former Baltimore Orioles are currently playing practice games in the Nippon Professional Baseball league.

Baltimore Orioles fans should keep a close eye on their favorite former players as two NPB players tested positive for COVID-19 today.

The two players, Hayato Sakamoto and catcher Takumi Oshiro, are on the Yomiuri Giants. They aren’t the first baseball players in Japan to test positive for the virus. In March, Hanshin Tigers pitcher Shintaro Fujinami and some of his teammates tested positive, too.

But, with the start of the season approaching, the positive results put a bit of a damper on their practices and preseason games. With the two players testing positive, their games and practices were cancelled. According to the Kyoto News, the two players have not shown any symptoms. The NPB tested 220 people within the organization in late May. Four of the tests returned positive.

Several former Orioles are playing in the NPB, including the former face of the team, Adam Jones. He is a member of the Orix Buffaloes. At this time, no former Orioles play for the Giants. The Giants and the rest of the NPB began preseason games on June 2, so they could have infected others on their team and on the Seibu Lions. No Orioles play for the Lions, but Daisuke Matsuzaka pitches for them.

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The Lions and Giants were scheduled to play today, but their preseason game was cancelled. All of the other teams have already played their games. Jones’s Buffaloes play in the Pacific League and the Giants are in the Central League. The Buffaloes have their home stadium in Osaka; the Giants make their home in Tokyo.

Jones’s Buffaloes lost their first two preseason games. On June 2, they lost 1-2 and on June 3, they lost 5-10.

Hopefully, the MLB is watching how the NPB manages the league with two of their top players testing positive for COVID-19. One of the players, shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, is the league’s reigning MVP. In Japan, he is the equivalent of Derek Jeter when it comes to popularity both in and out of the sports world. He is expected to lead the Japanese baseball team in the postponed summer Olympics.

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In the preseason games, players were not allowed to give their teammates high-fives. For safety, the umpires wore protective face masks under the normal safety gear. According to another article from the Kyoto News, 71 practices games are scheduled between June 2 and the opening of the league.

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