July 7, 2022

12 Nippon Professional Baseball teams’ spring training got under way on Tuesday with fans watching the action in ballparks for the first time in two years.

Last year, because of COVID-19 precautions fans were not allowed to sit and watch in person the spring training, however, this year teams are allowing fans to return under new safety protocols.

The new manager of the Sapporo-based Nippon Ham Fighters, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, made a grand entrance on a three-wheeled motorcycle when he showed up at the minor league team’s spring training site in Kunigami, a village in Japan’s southernmost prefecture of Okinawa.

Hanshin Tigers player Akihiro Yano, who announced a day earlier that 2022 will be his last season at the helm of the club, addressed the crowd during an opening ceremony held in the stadium at Ginoza, also in Okinawa Prefecture.

The reigning Japan Series champion Yakult Swallows began the spring training in Urasoe, Okinawa Prefecture, without manager Shingo Takatsu, who was in isolation after a family member tested positive for coronavirus.

The preseason games will begin from Feb. 23, and the Central and Pacific leagues both open their regular season on March 25.