“I think they’ve made a big, big mistake,” former Los Angeles Dodgers and Team USA manager Tommy Lasorda told the Associated Press at the time. “Baseball is played by all countries now and softball, too. I think that’s really going to hurt the Olympics. I don’t want to knock the other sports, but I think this is a big mistake. I am very disappointed.”
In December, however, the IOC cleared the way to allow the sports’ return. Yet, those wanting to see top American players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and others compete for gold might still be disappointed. Manfred, like his predecessor Bud Selig, remains adamant that national teams shouldn’t pull from the MLB’s pool of players and disrupt the regular season.
“The Olympics are a challenge because of the calendar,” Manfred told reporters at an April meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors (via Salon.com). “They are particularly a challenge when the site is halfway around the world and the date falls in the middle of our regular season.”
Others, including World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari, believe there is still room for negotiation.
“We’re in discussions and we have a great relationship with MLB,” Fraccari told the AP on Monday. “We have plenty of time to discuss before 2020.”
There is also time to discuss it before a final decision is made. Final word on the inclusion of the sports will come next August when the IOC will make a ruling at the 129th IOC Session in Rio.
The IOC will also consider whether to approve Tokyo’s request to add karate and the “youth-oriented” sports skateboarding, surfing and sports climbing to the 2020 agenda. Those sports have never been in the Olympics.
“We firmly believe that by connecting with youth, bringing to life Olympic Agenda 2020 and the Tokyo 2020 vision, our proposal constitutes the best possible package that will add the most value to the Games,” said Tokyo 2020 planner Fujio Mitarai said in a press release.
Organizers have proposed limiting the amount of events, however. For example, Tokyo left longboard surfing off its list and instead proposed only shortboard competition. The skateboarding competition would include a street and park event. And karate would include just kata and kumite competitions.
In all, the new sports would add 18 events to the the games and an additional 474 athletes to the competition.