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Fukushima added as Tokyo 2020 Olympic baseball, softball venue

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TOKYO (AP) — Organizers on Friday confirmed that baseball and softball games for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be held in Fukushima, an area hit by the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster.

The International Olympic Committee approved the use of Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium as an additional venue for baseball and softball.

The IOC and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster that hit Japan’s northeastern region including Fukushima, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo, where entire communities fled after meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

More than 18,000 people died or went missing after a massive earthquake and tsunami.

“By hosting Olympic baseball and softball events, Fukushima will have a great platform to show the world the extent of its recovery in the 10 years since the disaster,” Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said.

The stadium, which has hosted professional baseball games in recent years, will be renovated for the games. Yokohama Stadium, some 40km (24 miles) from Tokyo, will be the main stadium for the baseball and softball competitions.

The proposal to use the 31-year-old Fukushima stadium was approved at the IOC Executive Board meeting in Pyeongchang.

Baseball and softball were dropped after the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but have been added to the Olympic program for the 2020 Games.

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No talks yet between MLB, international baseball officials on Olympics

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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred remains skeptical of major leaguers at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but he’s also still waiting to discuss the matter with international officials.

“There have not been any substantive discussions with the baseball and softball confederation about participation of major-league players in the 2020 Olympics,” Manfred said Tuesday in Tokyo for the World Baseball Classic, according to the Japan Times. “I’m sure that those conversations will take place. We have not even been informed about what exactly the format of the event is going to be, how many days would be involved and whatnot.

“I am more than prepared to hear what the event is going to look like, describe to our owners what our options are with respect to participation in that type of event, and we’ll make a decision from there.”

When baseball was re-added to the Olympics for 2020, ending a 12-year absence from the Games, it was reported that the tournament would include six teams. In the most recent Olympic baseball tournaments, there were eight teams.

Both Manfred and the MLB Players Association head have emphasized the difficulties in MLB participation in Tokyo 2020, most notably the fact that the Games take place during the MLB and minor-league seasons.

“The skepticism that you’ve heard from some relates to, no matter how you put the event together there would be a significant amount of major league players who would be away from their teams,” Manfred said Tuesday, according to the newspaper. “It would alter the competition in our everyday game. I do not believe our owners would support some sort of a break in our season. Continuity is really important to our competition.”

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MLB Players Association head says ‘continuing dialogue’ about 2020 Olympics

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SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — The head of the Major League Baseball Players Association says it will be difficult for big leaguers to participate at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Baseball returns to Olympics after a 12-year absence for the Tokyo Games, which are scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9 — in the middle of baseball’s season.

“There are challenges with the schedule, and there are challenges with major leaguers being involved,” Tony Clark said Thursday at the Baltimore Orioles’ spring training camp.

In 2008, players on major league 25-man rosters and disabled lists on June 26 were ineligible to play. The U.S. roster included 17 players from Triple-A, seven from Double-A and college pitcher Stephen Strasburg, now with the Washington Nationals.

“It doesn’t mean that we are not continuing to have dialogue. We have going back. We will going forward. Where we land, I don’t know,” Clark said. “One of the things we were able to discuss during this round of bargaining were some additional flexibility in the schedule moving forward. Maybe there are some opportunities for a broader discussion than there have been a year ago. We’ll have to wait and see. We haven’t had that kind of substantive sit down yet.”

Many players are preparing for the fourth edition of World Baseball Classic, an international tournament launched in 2006 that is co-owned by Major League Baseball and the union. Clark hopes to see a fifth edition in 2021.

“I see no reason at this point why it wouldn’t,” he said. “I’m hopeful it continues, understanding that the world we live in four years from now may be different from the one we’re in now.”

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