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Bichette weighs in on South Korean baseball, empty stadiums and Jays' excitement level


With a few pro leagues resuming play around the globe, Major League Baseball fans are getting a glimpse of how things might look if big-league games return after this extended break for the COVID-19 pandemic.

South Korean teams are squaring off in empty stadiums. Taiwan is using a limited attendance approach with physical distancing in effect.

No decision has been made on a potential MLB return but optimism seems to be on an upswing of late. If and when play resumes, empty stands are expected to be the norm in the early going.

Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette has seen some of the highlights from Korean league play and admits it would take some adjustments to play without fans in attendance.

"The fans give us a ton of adrenaline," he said Friday. "We really feed off of them and use them a lot for our own playing ability and stuff like that. So it'll be tough.

"But at the same time, it's just going to take us figuring out how to motivate ourselves, how to give us that adrenaline ourselves and I think we'll be fine."

The Blue Jays were originally scheduled to start their regular season on March 26. Several ideas have been floated about potential return scenarios but things remain in an indefinite holding pattern as the pandemic continues.

Bichette, who has been working out at home in St. Petersburg, Fla., said he's hopeful that MLB is monitoring the South Korean league to see if it's a setup that could eventually work in North America.

"I definitely think if it's going well over there, they should be looking into it," he said on a conference call. "And finding out if that could be a good solution for us."

Bichette is coming off a solid rookie campaign in 2019. The 22-year-old Orlando native is one of the team's young anchors along with Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Toronto posted a 12-6 record in pre-season play before Grapefruit League was stopped.

"I was very excited for myself and for the team coming up, really excited to see what we could accomplish," Bichette said. "But I think as a baseball player, I mean everybody in life, we live on routine, we live on knowing what's next.

"And in this time obviously everybody knows we don't really know what's next. So that's definitely the tough part."

Bichette, a second-round draft pick in 2016, made his big-league debut last July. He played in 46 games, batting .311 with 11 homers and 21 RBIs.

The Blue Jays finished fourth in the American League East last year at 67-95. Many baseball observers pegged improvement in 2020 although a return to playoff contention isn't expected for at least another year or two.

Toronto's pitching staff looks much stronger with several new additions, most notably free-agent ace Hyun-Jin Ryu. Stud pitching prospect Nate Pearson is also waiting in the wings.

"I don't think the time off changes the way we feel about our team," Bichette said. "We're going to go back and we're going to play as hard as we can and we're going to work as hard as we can.

"That's all we can control. We definitely believe in ourselves."

Bichette has also kept busy with some gaming this spring. He was the Blue Jays' representative among the 30 big-leaguers who took part in a round-robin tournament on PlayStation's "MLB The Show 20."

Players squared off in three-inning games last month. Bichette made the eight-team cut as the third seed at 21-8 before falling to Lucas Giolito of the Chicago White Sox.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2020.

Follow @GregoryStrongCP on Twitter.

Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press

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