Monday, July 11, 2005

If You Play It, You Can't Come

How in the world did this happen?

Baseball and softball are out of the Olympics as of 2012, in a vote that surprised even longtime International Olympic Committee members.
"There were a lot of people that said they supported us and obviously didn't," said Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation.

Baseball joined the Olympics in 1992 and softball in 1996. (Related items: Major leaguers upset | Sadness, anger in Latin America)

Friday's secret vote reflected a heavy European influence of the IOC, which claims a near majority of European members. The popularity of baseball and softball are limited primarily to the Americas, Canada and Asia. Both sports were founded in the U.S.

Baseball also suffers from its failure to reach an agreement with Major League Baseball that would send the top players to the Olympics. "The problem is not only one problem," said Aldo Notari, head of the International Baseball Federation. "The problem is we need further development in the world."

Porter, who said he was devastated, has been concerned all along that members linked baseball and softball too closely.

The other 26 sports were retained.

"I think they've made a big, big mistake," said Tommy Lasorda, the former Dodgers manager who managed the U.S. to its only gold medal, at the Sydney Games in 2000.

"Baseball is played by all countries now and softball, too. I think that's really going to hurt the Olympics. I don't want to knock the other sports, but I think this is a big mistake. I am very disappointed.

"I was fortunate enough to coach the U.S. Olympic team in Australia. The parks were full at all times. How can they take away a sport like that?"

You don't know how obsessed my family is with baseball. I just got back from vacation with them and my brother Paul, has the MLB TV subscription and TV's all over the house and yard--and everyone tuned to a baseball game somewhere! The Yankees are on almost every day.

I've lived and breathed baseball since I was born. My father played pro ball for a time and was in Triple-A as a coach. My Uncle Clem just had a baseball field named after him in Plainfield, NJ after a 50 year career in coaching kids in baseball. My nephew B.K. dreams of playing in the majors--and is good enough to do it.

How sad that synchronized swimming and badminton (and some sports I've never even heard of) get to stay in but a truly competitive team sport like baseball struck out.

I guess we won't be buying any Olympic tickets in the near future.

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