Mexico

Getty Images

Mexico snatches Olympic baseball spot from U.S., which must now wait

Leave a comment

The U.S. was three outs from clinching a spot in the first Olympic baseball tournament in 12 years. Instead, Mexico will play for an Olympic baseball medal for the first time, forcing the Americans to wait until March.

The Mexicans scored once in the ninth inning and walked off in the 10th, taking a winner-goes-to-the-Olympics game 3-2 at the Premier12 at the Tokyo Dome on Sunday.

Mexico joined Japan, Israel and South Korea in the six-team 2020 Olympic baseball tournament. Baseball returns to the Games in July for the first time since it was voted off the Olympic program following the 2008 Beijing Games. Baseball will not be on the Paris 2024 program but could return again for Los Angeles 2028.

Mexico, managed by former MLB infielder Juan Castro, rallied to deny what would have been an improbable U.S. run to the lone Olympic berth available for teams from the Americas at Premier12.

The U.S. needed four straight game results to go its way to remain in Olympic qualifying contention. From Wednesday through Saturday, the U.S. beat Chinese Taipei, Japan and South Korea beat Mexico and Chinese Taipei beat Australia.

On Sunday, the Americans were up 2-1 in the ninth inning. They were in prime position to qualify for the Olympics for the fifth time in six tries since it was added as a medal event in 1992.

Then Mexican designated hitter Matt Clark, who played for the U.S. at the 2011 Pan American Games and for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2014, smacked a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth. In extra innings, runners are placed on first and second to start each half-inning. Efren Navarro ended the game in the 10th on a walk-off single.

While Mexico celebrates its first Olympic baseball berth, the U.S. focus shifts to an Americas qualifier in March in Arizona (and, if necessary, a final, global qualifying event in Chinese Taipei).

The roster at Premier12 included many double-A and triple-A prospects, but it remains to be seen how MLB clubs will go about releasing minor leaguers for a tournament that will take place during spring training.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Israel baseball turned to Shlomo Lipetz for the biggest out in program history

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nbcolympictalk’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]

U.S., Mexico face off for Olympic baseball berth

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The U.S. and Mexico will play a winner-goes-to-the-Olympics game at baseball’s Premier12, a global Olympic qualifying tournament, after four straight game results went the U.S.’ way.

The game is Saturday at 10 p.m. ET in Japan.

Two Olympic bids are available at Premier12 — one to the top finishers from the Americas and Asia/Oceania, granted Japan is already in as host nation. Israel previously qualified at an Africa/Europe qualifier. South Korea grabbed the Asia/Oceania spot.

The U.S.-Mexico loser can still qualify for Tokyo at one of two tournaments next March and April.

Mexico, managed by former MLB infielder Juan Castro, beat the U.S. last week and clinched a spot in the medal round days ago. The U.S., which lost its first two games in the six-team super round, rallied to sneak into the bronze-medal game against Mexico.

From Wednesday through Saturday, the U.S. needed to beat Chinese Taipei and have Japan beat Mexico, South Korea beat Mexico and Chinese Taipei beat Australia. They all happened.

Mexico, seeking its first Olympic baseball berth, beat the U.S. 8-2 in Mexico on Nov. 3. Its starting pitcher was 39-year-old Horacio Ramirez, who played with six teams in the majors from 2003-11.

Active MLB players are not on Premier12 rosters and are not expected to be in the Olympics in July. MLB has never stopped its season to send players to the Olympics.

The U.S. team at Premier12 is mostly made up of double-A- and triple-A-caliber players.

If the U.S. loses to Mexico, things get tricky in Olympic qualifying.

It could get as many as two more chances to qualify for the first Olympic baseball tournament since 2008, but the next one is in March during MLB spring training. MLB clubs may be less inclined to release the caliber of minor leaguers that featured on the Premier12 roster.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

The U.S. qualified for all but one Olympic baseball tournament when the sport was previously part of the program from 1992 through 2008, earning gold in 2000.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: AL MVP nixes unretirement for Olympic baseball qualifying

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nbcolympictalk’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’]

Enriqueta Basilio, first woman to light Olympic cauldron, dies at 71

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Enriqueta Basilio, who at the 1968 Mexico City Games became the first woman to light an Olympic cauldron, died Saturday at age 71, according to Mexico’s Olympic Committee.

Basilio was 20 years old when she lit the cauldron in the Opening Ceremony at her home nation’s first Olympics. She later was eliminated in the heats of the 400m, 80m hurdles and the 4x100m relay.

Basilio later took part in the 2004 Athens Olympic torch relay when it visited Mexico City. Last year, she symbolically relit the Olympic cauldron in Mexico City to mark the 50th anniversary of those Games.

Basilio and Australian Cathy Freeman (Sydney 2000) remain the only women to be the sole cauldron lighters at a Summer Olympics.

Though cauldron lighters are now closely guarded secrets, it was reported three months before the Mexico City Games that Basilio would receive the honor.

Back in 1968, Basilio reportedly shrugged when asked why she thought she was chosen.

“Maybe it’s because here in Mexico the mens and the womens have the same rights,” she said through a translator, according to The New York Times. “Maybe it’s because she comes from Baja California, the youngest state in the country. And maybe it’s because some people says she represents the typical Mexican type, a new kind of generation. The new Mexico youth is tall, more thin. The last generation was short, more fat.”