Baseball Makes First Cut In Efforts At Olympic Reinstatement

The International Baseball Federation announced two news items this week, one with an international competition that will play out in the fall, one that IBAF hopes will return in the future.

IBAF will stage a Baseball World Cup in October, with Panama as the host nation. The United States earned its spot in the event with a strong showing last September in the qualifier in Puerto Rico. Team USA, which is expected to have a roster full of minor leaguers to defend the title it won in 2009 in Europe, plays Pool A rival Japan in its opener. The rest of Pool A includes Canada, Greece, host Panama, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands and Taiwan.

Australia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy, Nicaragua, South Korea and Venezuela populate Pool B.

The Baseball World Cup and the World Baseball Classic are on every four year schedules, staggered so that one takes place every two years. They are the top international tournaments in baseball, especially since the sport was taken off the Olympic Games programme after the 2008 Games in Beijing. IBAF is working toward baseball's Olympic reinstatement, however, including a new logo to herald the effort.

IBAF's president, Italy's Riccardo Fraccari, successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee prior to a July 4 IOC executive board meeting, where the IOC winnowed down from 12 to eight the sports that want to be on the 2020 Olympic programme (as the IOC calls its roster of sports).

Baseball made the cut as did softball, karate, roller sports, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard and wushu. Falling short were ballroom dancing, bowling, surfing and netball. The official programme for 2020, as well as the host city, will be finalized at a vote in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in October 2013.

Baseball's plan is to have one bat-and-ball sport with two disciplines: men's baseball and women's softball. Most likely, the two sports would share one field. As a hypothetical example, the baseball teams would walk in Opening Ceremonies and play their tournament in the first seven days of the Olympics, which last 16 days overall. Then the field would be changed from baseball to softball, and the women would take over the venue and the men's rooms in the Olympic Village, playing their tournament in the final eight days and walking in the Closing Ceremonies.

"All of our efforts must be well-coordinated to maximize and amplify our message that our sport encourages Olympism," Fraccari said in a press statement, "and that our values are in line with the Olympic movement . . . We need to refer to the benefits and growth of our sport due to the fact that it was an Olympic medal sport from 1992-2008.

"At the same time, we must prove that baseball will add value to the Olympic Games—and not simply commercial value, but with ideals like inclusiveness, tradition, sportsmanship and excellence, to name a few."