In a major win for the proponents of both sports, baseball and softball will return to the Oympics in 2020.
The last several Olympic Games have seen the absence of both sports, which last appeared in the summer of 2008. When the decision to drop baseball and softball was made in 2005, several factors were working against each in the eyes of the IOC, including the lack of big names on baseball rosters and what the committee perceived as a limited geographical base for both sports.
With the games set for Tokyo in 2020, both baseball and softball are returning as part of a much larger package of events. More from the Los Angeles Times:
“What a truly great day for the sports of softball and baseball,” USA Softball Executive Director Craig Cress said. “For softball and baseball to be added to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games program is a dream come true for many athletes across the world. USA Softball is proud to be the national governing body for the sport of softball and will continue to work diligently every day to promote our great sport of softball on the world stage.’
Also approved for inclusion were karate, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing, in an effort to appeal to a younger audience.
“We want to take sport to the youth,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “With the many options that young people have, we cannot expect any more that they will come automatically to us. We have to go to them. Tokyo 2020’s balanced proposal fulfils all of the goals of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation that allowed it. Taken together, the five sports are an innovative combination of established and emerging, youth-focused events that are popular in Japan and will add to the legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
In all likelihood, MLB players will be absent from the Olympics–it is hard to picture a hiatus, or even a handful of players going at such a key point in the season–and baseball will go back to utilizing minor league players for Team USA’s roster. The preseason World Baseball Classic–which is set to return next spring–could remain as baseball’s main international showcase for major league players. Softball first appeared in the Olympics in 1996, while baseball spent decades an exhibition before becoming a medal sport in 1992.