The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) made a second push to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland, with the hopes of getting baseball reinstated for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The presentation, which included IBAF president Dr. Harvey Schiller, secretary general John Ostermeyer, Major League Baseball president and chief operation officer Bob DuPuy, Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Donald Fehr and IBAF anti-doping manager Jean-Pierre Moser, focused on the following points:
• Baseball will offer a five-day, eight-team tournament which will allow for maximum participation of the top players from countries that qualify for the 2016 Olympics. The qualifier for 2016 would be held during the 2015 off-season.
• Major League Baseball in North America will not broadcast any games directly against the Olympic baseball schedule in 2016.
• All four potential host cities—Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo—have established baseball stadiums.
• MLB will work with the IOC to create a year-round marketing partnership designed to increase awareness, not just for baseball, but for the Olympic program overall.
• Baseball will continue to take a leadership position amongst all sports in anti-doping, and will continue to expand its in and out of competition testing programs.
• A continued year-round commitment to grow the game globally at the grassroots level for young boys and girls, especially focused on emerging nations and across Europe.
• The commitment from young elite players from around the globe who may be eligible in 2016.
Fehr touched on some of those points when he addressed the committee.
“The MLBPA has and will continue to work closely with the IBAF, Major League Baseball, the Japanese and other professional leagues, and, of course, players the world over to come up with the best scenario so that more top players will be able to participate, and fulfill the dream of representing their countries in the Olympic Games,” he told the committee, according to a press release. “We will make sure that happens, and the 2016 Olympics will have the best representation of players ever to participate in any Olympics. I am confident that MLB and the MLBPA, along with the NPB, the Korean League and Players Associations in Asia will make available to the qualifying countries a to-be-determined number of top players, with the rest of the roster coming from the best athletes available from the professional ranks. The teams will have a sampling of the best individuals in the sport, and the best-ever representative national teams. Young players in the game today, who are much more familiar with international competition than were players of earlier generations, have already begun to ask about participation in 2016, and to express their intent to do so. In fact, you have a statement from the highest rated young player in America, who has just been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, expressing his commitment to the 2016 Games.”
The player he referenced is, of course, 16-year-old Las Vegas phenom Bryce Harper, who recently committed to CC of Southern Nevada—bypassing his junior and senior years in high school so he can be eligible for the 2010 draft.
“He has expressed that interest in playing in the Olympic Games in 2016,” USA Baseball spokesman Jake Fehling said. “There’s no committing at this point, but if that option was made available to him, yes he would be interested. He helped us in the presentation by signing copies of the Sports Illustrated to present to the IOC committee, expressing his interest to play.”
After being part of the Olympic program since 1992, baseball got knocked out of the Olympics in 2005, when the IOC conducted secret balloting on all 28 sports in its program. Baseball and softball were the only two that did not receive enough votes to stay in, meaning the 2008 Games in Beijing marked their final hurrah, at least for the time being. They are the first sports to be eliminated from the Olympics since polo was nixed in 1936.
Along with baseball, several other sports are hoping to be part of the Olympic program in 2016. Softball, golf, karate, rugby, squash and roller sports are all competing for two available spots in the 2016 schedule. The sports other than baseball and softball have never been on an Olympic program before.
It is expected that a recommendation for inclusion of two of the seven sports will be made by the IOC Executive Board during the World Track and Field Championships in Berlin, Germany the week of Aug. 15. Those sports will then be presented to the IOC membership for a vote at the Olympic Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark in early October.