February 9, 2020
Japanese baseball clubs are banning fans from releasing balloons into the air -- to protect people from the fast-spreading novel coronavirus.
The Hanshin Tigers, whose supporters have for decades launched the screeching, sausage-shaped balloons while their team limbers up to bat in the seventh inning, put a pin in the tradition earlier this week.
Rivals the DeNA BayStars, another club whose fans have adopted the custom, followed suit on Saturday, meaning that the ban will remain for the seven games at their spring training base in Ginowan, on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, local media reported.
The Tigers, one of Japan's oldest professional clubs, posted on their website that visitors to games should "refrain from releasing jet balloons as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the new coronavirus" at this month's warm-up games in Okinawa and Kochi prefecture. The club adopted a similar ban during the 2009 outbreak of swine flu.
Fans of several other of the country's 12 professional clubs have emulated the seventh-inning tradition, one of the most colourful sights in Japanese sport.