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What Olympic baseball, softball will look like for the first time since 2008, and perhaps the last time

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With the Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021, OlympicTalk is taking a sport-by-sport look at where things stood before sports were halted and how global circumstances could alter the Olympic picture …

Baseball and softball are in the Olympics for the first time since 2008, but won’t stay there.
This is, for now, a one-time-only return to the Olympic program. Baseball and softball were among a handful of sports added for the Tokyo Games only, proposed by organizers given the popularity within the host country.

Paris 2024 chose not to propose baseball and softball. The IOC could re-add baseball and softball to the regular Olympic program before the 2028 Los Angeles Games, perhaps if 2021 goes well. Or, LA organizers could copy Tokyo and propose the sports be added for their Games only.

The U.S. qualified for Tokyo as a favorite in softball. Baseball is a different story.
The Tokyo field will be six teams in each sport, down from eight at the 2008 Beijing Games. The softball field is already set. Japan, which won the 2008 Olympic title, got in as host. The U.S. took the next spot by winning the most recent world title in 2018 (over Japan in an extra-inning final). Italy, Mexico, Canada and Australia round it out.

In baseball, the U.S. gets up to three chances to qualify. It missed on the first try, the Premier12 event in Tokyo in November. The U.S. was stunned by Mexico with an Olympic spot at stake. The next qualifier was to be a North and South American event in Arizona in March, but that was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Top competition there was to come from Canada, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. If the U.S doesn’t get the lone spot available at the rescheduled tournament, it could try at the last-chance, global qualifying tournament.

2021 Olympic Capsules: Track and Field | Swimming | Gymnastics
Beach Volleyball | Diving | Basketball | Golf | Tennis

Softball’s biggest names will be in Tokyo. Baseball’s likely will not.
The already named U.S. Olympic softball roster includes two well known pitchers from the previous Olympic generation — Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman, who combined to throw every U.S. pitch in the 2008 Olympic final. And Rachel Garcia, the 2018 and 2019 NCAA Player of the Year from UCLA.

Despite Bryce Harper‘s adamant wishes, active MLB players are not expected to be made available for the Olympics. MLBers were never part of the Olympics in the previous medal generation from 1992 through 2008. It was always minor leaguers or college players, though some went on to All-Star careers (Jason GiambiNomar GarciaparraRoy Oswalt, Stephen Strasburg among them). In the first round of qualifying, the U.S. team was made up of mostly double-A and triple-A caliber players. For the second round (before it was postponed due to the coronavirus), MLB reduced restrictions, allowing players on 40-man rosters, but likely not active 26-man roster players.

This could benefit Japan, whose domestic league is expected to take an Olympic break in 2021, granted some Japanese superstars are in MLB (Shohei OhtaniMasahiro Tanaka). By the way, Ichiro, before he retired from MLB, ruled out bidding for an honorary spot on the Olympic team.

Familiar names are still lining up for Olympic baseball, though.
If the U.S. does qualify, it could have five-time MLB All-Star outfielder Adam Jones as an option. Jones, one of five Americans to play at each of the last two World Baseball Classics, signed in December to play in Japan’s domestic league with an eye on attaining Olympic eligibility.

Another MLB All-Star, retired second baseman Ian Kinsler, made aliyah over the winter to fulfill Israeli citizenship requirements. Israel had a magical run to qualify for the Olympics for the first time last September. Yet another, retired first baseman Justin Morneau, was originally named to Canada’s team for Premier12 before withdrawing due to an unspecified setback. Six-time All-Star slugger Jose Bautista showed reported interest in playing for the Dominican Republic in Olympic qualifying, perhaps also as a two-way player.

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NBA participation in Tokyo Olympics could be limited, Adam Silver says

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the Tokyo Olympics’ effect on the league’s schedule planning for 2021 is unclear, but that it’s possible that Olympic participation may be limited.

“There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing,” Silver told Bob Costas on CNN on Tuesday. “Obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics from other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through. I just say, lastly, these are highly unique and unusual circumstances. I think, just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. We’re just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations.”

Silver said his best guess is that the next NBA season starts in January with a goal of a standard 82-game schedule and playoffs. A schedule has not been released.

In normal NBA seasons that start in late October, the regular season runs to mid-April and the NBA Finals into mid-June.

The Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony is July 23. If an NBA season is pushed back two or three months to a January start, and the schedule is not condensed, the Olympics would start while the NBA playoffs are happening.

The current NBA season is in the conference finals phase in an Orlando-area bubble after a four-month stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a factor in our planning,” Silver said of the Olympics. “It would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that’s so unclear.”

The NBA has participated in every Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games. Monday was the 29th anniversary of the announcement of the first 10 members of the original Dream Team on an NBC selection show (hosted by Costas).

Before the NBA era, U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams consisted of college players.

MORE: When Michael Jordan lost in wheelchair basketball to Paralympian

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2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

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Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final