Cuba fails to qualify for Olympic baseball for first time

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Cuba, which made all five Olympic baseball medal finals before the sport was removed from the Olympic program after 2008, failed to qualify for baseball’s return at the Tokyo Games.

Cuba, which is ranked seventh in the world, lost its first two games of a North and South American qualifying tournament to Venezuela (ranked eighth) and Canada (13th) in Florida.

The U.S. (ranked No. 2 in the world behind Japan), Canada, Venezuela and one of the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua or Puerto Rico will advance to the final round of the qualifier.

The tournament champion qualifies for the six-team Olympic baseball tournament. The second- and third-place teams advance to a last-chance global qualifier.

Japan, Israel, Mexico and South Korea previously qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Baseball will not be on the Olympic program in 2024 but could return for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Cuba’s notable players during its Olympic reign from 1992 through 2008 included pitchers Orlando Hernandez and Jose Contreras.

Plus third baseman Omar Linares, who had three home runs in the 1996 Olympic final and went 5 for 9 in the 1999 Cuba-Baltimore Orioles series. Linares never played in the MLB but was courted by the Toronto Blue Jays even though he could only play home games.

The U.S. roster at the Americas qualifier is managed by Mike Scioscia and includes past MLB All-Star Matt Kemp and 2014 Olympic short track speed skating silver medalist Eddy Alvarez.

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