Baseball still lacks MLB guarantee for Olympic bid
ROME (AP) — Baseball and softball’s joint bid for Olympic reinstatement is still lacking a guarantee that major league stars would be available to play ahead of a key presentation to the IOC next month.
International Baseball Federation President Riccardo Fraccari is holding out hope that Major League Baseball will commit its players for at least the semifinals and finals of the proposed Olympic tournament, but he told The Associated Press on Wednesday that “we have to be realistic.”
Baseball and softball have been out of the Olympics since 2008 and merged in a bid to return for the 2020 Games. They are competing against seven other sports for a single spot on the program.
On May 29 in St. Petersburg, Russia, the International Olympic Committee board will select one or more sports to submit for final consideration to the IOC general assembly in September.
“We need the utmost support from MLB to get past May,” Fraccari said. “We’re still negotiating.
“If we make it past this step there are a lot more cards to play. There are a lot of IOC members from Latin America who support baseball. The executive committee is one thing, the congress is another.”
The Olympic tournaments would feature eight teams divided into two groups, with the top two finishers in each group advancing to the semifinals.
Another option Fraccari has floated is suspending the MLB All-Star Game every four years and having a break later in the season for the Olympics instead. But MLB does not appear open to that proposal.
The IOC voted in 2005 to remove baseball and softball from the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games. As separate bids, the two sports both failed to return for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
However, wresting was cut in February from the 2020 Games by the IOC executive board and also will seek reinstatement.
Wrestling, which dates back to the ancient Olympics and the first modern games in 1896, has made leadership and rule changes in a bid to win reinstatement.
“It’s much, much more complicated now,” Fraccari said.
The others sports vying for entry are squash, roller sports, sport climbing, wakeboarding, and the martial arts of karate and wushu.
The enormous insurance contracts it would require to lend out MLB players midseason is also a stumbling block.
Fraccari estimated that $18 million was spent on insurance for the recent World Baseball Classic, and even if the Olympic figure might be half that, it’s still a problem.
“Who’s going to pay?” he said.
Still, the bid is not dead yet, and it received a boost from the World Baseball Classic.
The Dominican Republic won the WBC by beating Puerto Rico 3-0 in the final of the 28-team tournament in San Francisco on March 19. Japan won the first two WBC titles, which started in 2006.
WBC organizers said they exceeded global broadcast and ticket sales targets this year.
“The WBC helped a lot,” Fraccari said.