The joint baseball-softball bid to return to the Olympics is getting some help from the home run king.
Japan’s Sadaharu Oh, 73, who hit 868 home runs in 22 years with the Yomiuri Giants, spoke at the World Children’s Baseball Fair in Japan a week before baseball-softball goes up against squash and wrestling to be included in the 2020 Olympics on Sunday. The host city of the 2020 Olympics will be chosen Saturday from Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo.
“If Tokyo wins the honor to host the Olympic Games in 2020, I believe baseball and softball competitions will deliver the peak of Olympic sport, capturing the full attention of our entire nation and others around the world,” Oh said, according to a release from the World Baseball Softball Confederation. “The electrifying atmosphere of Japan playing at home for the gold medal would give the ballplayers and the fans the most unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“If the Games go to Europe, baseball and softball’s continual rise there and their strengthening worldwide emergence will ensure there is excitement and spectator interest that will build further to 2020 and beyond.”
Oh cited the globalization of baseball and softball, progress made in the Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom as well as countries outside Europe.
“That’s why I believe every major league around the world should find a way to make its best players available for the Olympic Games — and that is why I believe baseball and softball would be the IOC’s best choice on September 8th in Buenos Aires,” he said.
In July, Major League Baseball ruled out interrupting its season to let its players compete in the Olympics if it gets back in the Games. Baseball already has its pre-season international tournament, the every-four-years World Baseball Classic.
Oh joined Jackie Chan in voicing support for baseball and softball, which were cut from the Olympics after the 2008 Beijing Games. Baseball had been a medal sport beginning in 1992, and softball since 1996.