Teaming up to return baseball and softball to the Olympics
The excitement at the recent New York Yankees’ annual luncheon with the Boys & Girls Club coincides with the campaign to bring back baseball and softball to the Olympic program for 2020 and 2024. Baseball and softball, dropped from the Olympics after the 2008 games in Beijing, are mounting a comeback with seven other sports (karate, squash, wrestling, sport climbing, roller sport, wakeboard and wushu) that will be decided during the next six months of presentations and lobbying to the International Olympic Committee. The International Softball Federation, headquartered in Plant City, will be part of a combined bid of baseball (men) and softball (women) under the entity of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC). Recently in San Francisco, the World Baseball Classic came to a thrilling conclusion as the Dominican Republic beat Puerto Rico, 3-0.The success of this edition of the WBC, which broke all records for attendance, television viewership and social media impact, demonstrates that baseball — and its women’s counterpart in softball — are rapidly becoming a truly global pastime. While some may debate whether the best players in the world were on the field, there’s no questioning that in eight short years the WBC has risen to a place in the top tier of international sports championships — and clearly signals the true potential of baseball to become the world’s next great global game, particularly when you add the women’s side through softball. Starting with 28 national teams in qualifiers as early as September 2012, this tournament is the brainchild of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who has a dream of seeing his game played in every country on Earth. “The goal is the internationalization of the sport. Internationalization has a chance to take this sport to heights we can’t imagine today,” Selig told the media assembled at the Classic. To understand the power of the Olympic Games to promote a sport, look at the television audience for London 2012. In a world of 6.5 billion people, 4.5 billion tuned in to some part of the celebration. The largest sport they didn’t see was the one played with a bat and ball by 60 million men and women — and boys and girls — around the world. Now at the elite level, baseball and softball are played in more than 100 countries. But more than 200 countries compete in the summer Olympics. So there’s plenty of room to grow. That’s why we have joined forces to get baseball and softball in the Olympic Games — to give every boy and girl in the world a chance to play the game. We have a vision — that baseball and softball can become the next great global game — through the Olympic Games.
Don Porter is president of the International Softball Federation and resides in Plant City. Porter and Riccardo Fraccari of IBAF are co-presidents of the WBSC.