Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) champions, Rakuten Monkeys, have adopted a novel measure to fill out their ballpark, as the competition prepares to become the world’s first major baseball league to commence its 2020 season during the COVID-19 crisis.

Owned by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten and based in Taoyuan City in northwestern Taiwan, the Monkeys are due to commence their 2020 campaign, and the CPBL season as a whole, with a home game against Chinatrust Brothers on Friday.

Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium has a capacity of around 20,000, but the CPBL season will start with only team members, league and stadium staff, cheerleaders, and journalists in attendance at stadia. With this in mind, the Monkeys have said they will install robot mannequins in the stands, in place of actual fans.

“Since we are not allowed to have any fans in attendance, we might as well have some fun with it,” Monkeys general manager Justin Liu told the CPBL website. “We went with 500 robot mannequins to comply with the current CDC guideline.”

The CPBL’s 2020 season was originally due to start on March 14, before being pushed back to March 28 and then April 10.

“To conform with the government’s mandate limiting crowds at outdoor events, we will strictly limit the total number of people at each league game at fewer than 200,” CPBL secretary general Feng Shen-hsieng said at the weekend, according to the Taipei Times newspaper. “This figure will include the players, coaches, team employees, ballpark workers, league officials and members of the media.”

The move by the Monkeys comes after a Borussia Mönchengladbach supporters group last month suggested an innovative solution for when the Bundesliga football season restarts, by proposing that empty stadia be filled with cardboard cut-outs of fans.

Image: Rakuten Monkeys