Thursday, January 20

Baseball and Softball Prepare to Launch in the Olympics After 13 Years Absent | Tokyo 2020 Olympics

BAseball, which was formally added as a medal sport in 1992, and softball, which joined it four years later, became the first sports in seven decades to be eliminated from the Olympic program after the Beijing Games. 2008. The surprise vote of an International Olympic Committee that generally breaks down towards expansion has generally been attributed to Major League Baseball’s refusal to pause its summer season and allow the sport’s best players to participate, while eliminating softball it was widely interpreted, at least in the United States. circles, as punishment for team USA dominance.

It was no surprise that both were reinstated for the Tokyo Games: Japan may be the only country where baseball has more unique control over the national consciousness than the United States, where the sport gave up the practical, if not symbolic, mantle of the pastime. national to the NFL decades ago. The game has long been a national obsession across the island nation, from the wildly popular Summer Koshien high school annual tournament to a national Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league that is second only to MLB in revenue and global prestige. .

This year’s Olympic baseball tournament features six teams (Japan, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Israel, South Korea, and the US) competing in an opening group stage based on round-robin, followed by a “modified double elimination table” to determine a champion. The decision by both the NPB and the professional leagues of the Korean Baseball Organization to release their players for the Olympics, while MLB has again refused to release their players, makes Japan and South Korea clear. favorites. The most surprising absence from the match is Cuba, a finalist in each of the five previous Olympic tournaments and a winner in 1992, 1996 and 2004.

Team USA celebrates winning gold after winning the baseball final over Cuba at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
Team USA celebrates winning gold after winning the baseball final over Cuba at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Adam Pretty / Getty Images

The softball competition will also feature six teams: Australia, Canada, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the US, but in a different format: a single-group round-robin format with the top two advancing to the match by the gold medal and the third- and fourth-place teams facing off for bronze. Team USA will be the favorite once again after dominating the tournament in their previous life: the Americans outscored their opponents 122-4 and won consecutive golds during a streak of 22 Olympic victories that began in 2000 and ended with a loss by impact. Japan in the 2008 gold medal game. This year’s American roster includes the two lefties who combined to throw all the pitches for the Americans that night in Beijing: Monica Abbott, 35, and Cat Osterman , 38 years old.

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Both tournaments will take place before the empty stands at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium and the 34,000-seat Yokohama Stadium, home of the NPB’s Yokohama Baystars. That amounts to a missed opportunity when it comes to showcasing Japan’s glorious baseball cathedrals to the world – a gold medal game at Osaka’s historic Koshien Stadium is what dreams are made of, even if baseball fields are made of. reduced competition required it.

Either way, enjoy it while you can. Baseball and softball have already been scrapped for Paris 2024, but are likely to be added back at least temporarily when the Olympics return to Los Angeles in 2028.

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