Schiller Favored In IBAF Election

The International Baseball Federation has narrowed its pool of candidates for a new president to three, but for the United States, one candidate stands out.

The U.S. has nominated Dr. Harvey Schiller, formerly chairman and CEO of YankeeNets and retired Air Force brigadier general, to fill the post formerly held by Italy’s Aldo Notari, who died last July. The other finalists are Cuba’s Reynaldo Gonzalez Lopez and Netherlands broadcaster Theo Reitsma.

The vote by IBAF members will take place in Beijing at a March 3 meeting.

Schiller looks to be a strong favorite based on his history in the game and in the Olympic movement. Schiller’s baseball background has centered on broadcasting, as he was president of sports at Turner Broadcasting from 1994 to 1999, helping launch the Braves’ regional network, Turner South, and helping launch the YES Network while he was CEO of YankeeNets.

Schiller’s international experience includes a stint as secretary general of the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1990 to 1994, experience that should prove helpful as baseball lobbies to return to the Olympic program. After the 2008 Games in Beijing, baseball is off the Olympic docket, having lost a vote in July 2005 (by three votes), and won’t be part of the 2012 Games in London.

The new IBAF president will be at the forefront of the movement to return baseball to the Olympics. Gonzalez, a Cuban who lives in Mexico, was on the International Olympic Committee when baseball was voted off the program, but he does have extensive experience in IOC politics, including an 18-year stint as secretary general of Cuba’s Olympic committee. Reitsma’s background is almost exclusively in broadcasting, as his official IBAF biography begins with the line, “Reitsma is the most well-known sports commentator on television in the Netherlands.”

USA Baseball CEO Paul Seiler said he was optimistic about Schiller’s candidacy, citing his support from Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association, as well as the support of Japan, which has backed Schiller rather than nominating its own candidate. Current USOC president and former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth also has advocated Schiller’s candidacy, considered a crucial development because of the USOC’s sometimes tepid support of USA Baseball of late.

“Dr. Schiller . . . has strong relationships in the international Olympic community, and he is well-respected and appreciated by the leadership of professional baseball in our country,” Ueberroth wrote in a letter to IBAF voters. “These are two elements which we consider fundamental in the efforts to have baseball reinstated in the Olympic program in the future.”