Baseball makes pitch for Olympics

By Tom Singer
Updated: June 16, 2009

NEW YORK — In a pitch for Olympic reinstatement on Monday, the worldwide baseball community pledged to the International Olympic Committee the participation of its best eligible players and a concerted marketing effort to raise the sport’s global impact.

The formal presentation at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, included a commitment by Major League Baseball not to broadcast of MLB games during 2016 Olympic baseball competition, to ensure full media focus on the Games.

Furthermore, MLB vowed not to play any games on the final “medal” day of the Olympic tournament.

After having been part of Olympic lineups since 1992, baseball was excluded from the slate for the 2012 Games in London. It is seeking reinstatement for the 2016 Olympics, which will be held in Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo.

Monday’s presentation was headed by MLB president and chief operating officer Bob DuPuy, who was joined by International Baseball Federation president Harvey Schiller, IBAF anti-doping manager Jean-Pierre Moser, Dutch pro baseball star Sidney de Jong, and Donald Fehr, the executive director of the MLB Players Association.

DuPuy assured the IOC of MLB’s resolve to “grow awareness of all of the core values that we share and can promote together.”

“Baseball will make a commitment over the next seven years to use all of our assets [toward that goal],” DuPuy said. “We will work with the IOC to find opportunities in sponsorship and licensing, where our year-round global reach and popularity and our growing cadre of international stars can assist in growing Olympic marketing opportunities.”

Here are the major points of the formal presentation to the 15-member IOC board, which will decide on which two of seven candidate sports to nominate for the 2016 Olympics:

• Baseball will offer a five-day, eight-team tournament that will allow maximum participation of the top players from the countries that qualify for the Olympics. The qualifier for 2016 would be held during the 2015 offseason.

• All four potential host cities for 2016 already have established baseball venues and domestic baseball programs in place.

• The MLB offer not to broadcast any games in direct competition with the 2016 Olympic baseball schedule, or have any games on its schedule on the climactic day of Olympic medal play.

• The participation of eligible “elite players” around the world; cited as examples were de Jong and Bryce Harper, the 16-year-old Las Vegas phenom recently featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Schiller was confident in the presentation’s effectiveness.

“We feel that we have not just addressed the issues that were presented as to why baseball was removed for 2012,” said the IBAF president, “but have also outlined the most effective way in which the Olympic program can work with baseball’s year-round global marketing capabilities over the next seven years to maximize Olympic exposure.

“Baseball has shown it will do whatever it takes, from the grassroots to the professional level, to be not just a partner, but the best partner, for the Olympic movement.”

In an exclusive interview with during the last Summer Olympics in Beijing, IOC president Jacques Rogge said that the need for marquee players is important, but wasn’t the only reason baseball was removed from the program. He also said adding top players is no assurance of reinstatement.

“To be on the Olympic program is an issue where you need universality as much as possible,” Rogge said. “You need to have a sport with a following, you need to have the best players and you need to be in strict compliance with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). And these are the qualifications that have to be met.”

A key to the sport’s reinstatement is participation of the best eligible players, a mission for which Fehr pledged the players union’s full support.

“The MLBPA has and will continue to work … to come up with the best scenario so that more top players will be able to participate,” Fehr said, “and fulfill the dream of representing their countries in the Olympic Games. We will make sure that happens, and the 2016 Olympics will have the best representation of players ever to participate in any Olympics.

“I am confident that MLB and the MLBPA … will make available to the qualifying countries a to-be-determined number of top players, with the rest of the roster coming from the best athletes available from the professional ranks. The teams will have a sampling of the best individuals in the sport, and the best-ever representative national teams.”

The other sports vying for inclusion in the 2016 Games are softball, golf, karate, roller sports, rugby sevens and squash.

The 15-member IOC board taking in the presentations is expected to decide on the two “winners” when it meets in mid-August. Its choices then will be voted upon in early October by the full IOC membership.