The International Olympic Committee decreed today that baseball and softball will be Olympic sports in the 2020 Olympics. Also added were skateboarding, sports climbing, karate and surfing.
Baseball became a medal sport for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but was dropped for the 2012 London Games. It won’t be played this year in Rio de Janeiro, either. Japan is hosting the 2020 games, however, and host countries are given the opportunity to request the addition of new events. Baseball being what it is in Japan, it was logical that they’d at least ask for baseball, and today the IOC agreed. It will be in the form of a six-team tournament. It may only last for the 2020 games, however. It will not be approved beyond that. At least not now.
The question is who from the major leagues may play in it? A few weeks ago, when baseball was given approval in a preliminary vote, several major leaguers balked at the idea of doing so given that, you know, the Olympics tend to take place during the major league regular season. Japan and some other countries have discussed suspending their seasons for a couple of weeks, but it’s doubtful MLB would do that.
Which is not the end of the world if you’re pro-Team USA. In the past Olympic baseball teams consisted almost exclusively of college players. Indeed, Olympic baseball was the first place many of us saw some future stars. In 1984, in Los Angeles, baseball was only a demonstration sport, but Mark McGwire and Will Clark were introduced to many of us. U.S. won gold at the 2000 games, with Ben Sheets, among others, turning heads. The 2008 bronze medal winners featured Brett Anderson, Jake Arrieta, Dexter Fowler and Stephen Strasburg.
The 2020 Olympic baseball teams from the U.S., the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and, perhaps, Canada may not feature the top possible talent each country can offer given that those guys are always big leaguers. But it can still be fun. Here’s hoping it will be.