What it's like to play in the world's only active professional sports league right now

If Major League Baseball is to come back anytime soon it'll likely look like the stadiums in Taiwan - no fans, just mannequins decked out in team apparel.





Sunday will mark one week since the Chinese Professional Baseball League held its opening day. They are the only professional league playing right now in the world.

Taiwan has had success containing the COVID-19 outbreak, allowing them to begin play before any other league in Asia.

The CPBL has five teams which are each allowed to carry four Americans.

Justin Nicolino is a pitcher for the Rakuten Monkeys.

"To think that the decision that me and my wife made to continue to play baseball... we picked the right place to go, the right opportunity. All the other foreign guys that are here, we try to take it day by day," he says.

Nicolino is a former Major Leaguer with the Miami Marlins and signed with the Taiwanese baseball team in February to continue his playing career.

"People would ask - 'Are you sure it's safe to go?' And the people I knew here said, 'The President has a good control of everything, we feel safe'. Not thinking in two to three weeks of me being here it was going to turn into a pandemic. Each day it got weirder and weirder I was trying to get acclimated with baseball here and since we're 12 hours ahead I was getting information from my wife."

Nicolino wears a mask while traveling to and from the field. He says each player gets their temperature checked twice.

"Before we even go into the stadium we have someone checking everyone's temperature. Then when you get into the stadium, you have another temperature check just to make sure everyone is safe. People always say the field is like your second home. Once you get there and everyone gets checked out you feel pretty safe being there."

The pitcher says the game day atmosphere is typical of a baseball setting - the only difference is no one is heckling you.

"I threw the ball and I looked over and I completely forgot that they went out and made these cardboard fans. From far away they actually look like real people. So it's cool that they took the initiative especially with them streaming online to make it feel like a game."

With international travel bans in place, Nico's family has been unable to move to Taiwan like they had planned, meaning he has had to resort to FaceTime's with his wife and 2-year-old daughter Maddox.

"The hardest part for me is to watch my daughter grow up through the phone," he says.

While Nicolino's heart is heavy not being able to see his family, he is happy knowing they are safe in the U.S. He feels fortunate that he is able to play the game he loves during this time.

"Playing baseball right now helps, I'm in a foreign country, If I wasn't playing baseball I wouldn't know what I'd be doing."

Nicolino said that he's heard if one of the players in the league does contract the virus they would most likely shut down for a period of time. The CPBL has just five teams that they need to monitor compared to the 30 in Major league baseball.

For more news coverage on the coronavirus and COVID-19 go to ABC30.com/coronavirus
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