The league's season is set to start on Saturday after several delays due to the pandemic

By Benjamin VanHoose
April 09, 2020 03:04 PM
Credit: Rakuten Monkeys/Facebook

If you build it, the … robots will come.

On Tuesday, the Rakuten Monkeys, a Taiwanese team that’s part of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, announced that they will stock their stands with an audience of robots and mannequins. The team holds their games at the Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium, with the season set to begin on Saturday.

Since spectators won’t be allowed at the closed-doors sporting events because of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) safety measures, the Monkeys decided on the stand-ins to make the stadium feel less vacant.

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

Photos of the artificial audience members show the figures decked out in Monkeys fan gear, some also sporting face masks and holding up signs to support the home team.

The league’s season had been delayed twice due to the pandemic, originally intended for a March 14 opening day, reported the Taipei Times.

Credit: Rakuten Monkeys/Facebook
Credit: Rakuten Monkeys/Facebook

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“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 leadership announced, according to the local outlet. “This figure will include the players, coaches, team employees, ballpark workers, league officials and members of the media.”

Several soccer leagues are also gearing up to kick off, according to the Taipei Times, with fans able to follow along with their favorite teams online or on television.

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According to data compiled by The New York Times, there have been more than 1.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 89,162 deaths around the world, as of April 9. In Taiwan, those numbers are 380 and five, respectively.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.