TAMPA, Fla. — It might not be the major leagues that American baseball fans are longing to see, but baseball is back during the coronavirus pandemic. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) in South Korea is one week into its season.
Former Plant High School standout Preston Tucker plays for the Kia Tigers, and he was the league’s top hitter in week one.
In the first six games, he’s batting .476 and leads the league with three home runs and 11 RBIs. Tucker, a former Florida Gator, also has three seasons of Major League Baseball experience with the Braves, Reds and Astros.
“The competition is good,” Tucker said. “There are only ten teams in the league. Everyone knows everybody. There’s a lot of rivalries here. It’s exciting. It’s different.”
It’s also different because of COVID-19. Tucker says several precautions are in place to keep the players safe.
“We have portable thermometers. We have to check them first thing in the morning and before we go to bed,” Tucker explained. “If we are running a fever we have to call the trainers. They don’t let us in the stadium until we clear a thermal camera that we are not reading over a certain amount.”
Fans are still not allowed in the stadiums.
“It’s really like a backfield spring training. It’s tough to get adrenaline going when there is no one there,” Tucker said. “We have been inter-squad and practicing for so long it’s become normal.”
But, to ease that perception of barren bleachers, the Tigers organization had an idea.
“We have cut-outs of all the players on our roster kind of up and down the aisles and a big banner the size our scoreboard with a team picture from spring training,” Tucker said. “It’s something to keep it looking like an empty stadium.”
If you have that itch for baseball, many of these games are streamed live or broadcast on ESPN. Keep in mind though it’s a 13-hour time difference.