WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Monday a recommendation by organizers of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to include baseball was an “exciting step” toward seeing the game return to a major global stage.
Japanese organizers urged the return of baseball and softball to the roster of Olympics events. A decision by the International Olympic Committee is not due until August 2016.
“Today’s announcement by Tokyo 2020 to include baseball/softball into its proposal for additional events at the 2020 Olympic games is an exciting step forward to hopefully seeing our game return to this important platform,” Manfred said in a statement.
Baseball and softball were Olympic events until 2012, when the IOC’s 2005 decision to drop the sports took effect.
Cincinnati Reds two-time All-Star Todd Frazier said baseball’s return to the Olympics would be great for the sport.
“It’s fun, it’s intense. I would love to have baseball be part of the Olympics again,” Frazier, who played for the United States twice while in college, although not at the Games, told Reuters. “It’s great to watch. It would be a thrill to play in.”
The Olympics take place during the MLB season and the Games’ failure to lure the world’s best players was a factor in the sport being dropped from the Olympic program.
Frazier and others, including teammate Joey Votto, a Canadian, did not think MLB would halt its season during the Olympics, as the National Hockey League does.
“It would be best if baseball were part of the Winter Olympics (to coincide with baseball’s off-season),” Votto said before the Reds’ game against the Nationals. “The Olympics are all about getting the best in the world. Without disrespecting the players who played before, the Olympics were just not getting the best players.”
Nationals player Clint Robinson said baseball “is one of the most popular sports in the world. I don’t see how it cannot be part of the Olympics.”
Baseball/softball is the biggest sport not currently part of the Olympics – particularly in terms of youth participation in organized competition, World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari said.
“This is a very exciting day for the millions of players around the world who dream of wearing their country’s jersey and playing on the most important global platform in sports,” Fraccari said.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Peter Cooney