Baseball returns to the Olympic program for the first time in 13 years, but the first U.S. Olympic baseball team since 2008 includes a player with Olympic experience.
Eddy Alvarez, a 2014 Winter Olympic silver medalist in short track speed skating, is set to become the 11th American to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games.
Alvarez, an infielder in the Miami Marlins system, is a headliner on a 24-man roster made up mostly of minor leaguers.
The roster is split with 12 pitchers and 12 position players.
Past MLB All-Stars are also headed to Tokyo: infielder Todd Frazier and pitchers Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir and David Robertson.
The U.S. manager is Mike Scioscia, the former, longtime Los Angeles Angels skipper.
Active major leaguers have never participated in the Olympics as MLB does not take a break in its season. Baseball debuted as a medal sport at the 1992 Barcelona Games.
This is the first time a U.S. Olympic baseball roster includes a past MLB All-Star; 14 of the 24 players have MLB experience.
Alvarez and Frazier are joined in the infield by Nick Allen, Triston Casas and Jamie Westbrook, with Tyler Austin, Eric Filia, Patrick Kivlehan and Bubba Starling in the outfield. Jack Lopez will serve in a utility role.
Tim Federowicz and Mark Kolozsvary feature as catchers, managing the pitching staff of Shane Baz, Anthony Carter, Brandon Dickson, Anthony Gose, Jackson, Kazmir, Nick Martinez, Scott McGough, Robertson, Joe Ryan, Ryder Ryan and Simeon Woods-Richardson.
Nineteen of the 24 have previously played for USA Baseball. Kivlehan was on the team that took silver at the 2015 Pan American Games.
The most notable missing name is Adam Jones, a five-time MLB All-Star now playing in Japan’s domestic league.
Jones expressed interest in the Olympics, but was not on the roster for a qualifying tournament in Florida last month as he plays on the other side of the world. Japan’s league, unlike MLB, takes a break in its season to allow its best players to take part in the Tokyo Games.
“Adam was absolutely considered for this roster,” Scioscia said Friday. “All these guys are still considered. We’ve got a pool of players if something happens [to any rostered player] in this next week.”
Baseball and softball were taken off the Olympic program following the 2008 Beijing Games. When IOC members voted baseball out — 54-50 was the tally — one of the strikes against it was a lack of MLB participation.
The U.S. won Olympic gold in 2000, and bronze in 1996 and 2008.
Baseball is back after a rule change that allowed a host nation to propose additional sports for its Games. Baseball and softball, popular in Japan, were confirmed in 2016 for the Tokyo Olympic program (along with karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing).
Baseball will not be on the 2024 Paris Olympic program, but it could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
The U.S. qualified for the Olympics in early June, capping a two-year journey.
The rest of the six-team Olympic baseball field: host Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the Dominican Republic.
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