SAN DIEGO (AP) — As Major League Baseball prepares for talks about the 2020 Olympics, Commissioner Rob Manfred said “from a calendar prospective, the dates of the Tokyo Games are not ideal.”
The International Olympic Committee executive board voted last month to support a six-nation tournament that year in both baseball and women’s softball, and the full IOC is to vote in August on the inclusion of the World Baseball Softball Confederation for the Tokyo Games, which are scheduled from July 24-Aug. 9.
Baseball became a medal sport for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but was dropped for the 2012 London Games and won’t be played next month in Rio de Janeiro. MLB is reluctant to stop its season for the Olympics, and players are reticent to play anywhere other than the big league stadiums they are accustomed to.
“We’re going to have some meetings with the international baseball and softball federation to fully understand what the program is going to be in Tokyo in terms of how long, how many, before we have any final decision on that issue,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Tuesday. “We like the idea of baseball being in the Olympics. We’re supportive of baseball being in the Olympics.”
The IOC wants the top players to appear in the Olympics, and the Japanese Central and Pacific Leagues appear open to interrupting their seasons for the Tokyo Games. The NBA has sent its players since 1992 and the NHL since 1998 — although the NHL has not yet committed for the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
In 2008, only those not on 25-man big league rosters as of late June were allowed to compete in the Beijing Games. The U.S. team included Jake Arrieta and Stephen Strasburg — both All-Stars this year.
Cuba won gold medals in 1992, 1996 and 2004, the U.S. in 2000 and South Korea in 2008.
“Is there an appreciation for the value of having baseball in the Olympics? Yes, there is,” union head Tony Clark said Monday. “Is there an appreciation for the season and how or if it could work with our active players? Yeah, there’s a conversation, but we run into the same roadblocks we always have.”