Baseball and softball will return to the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 2028.
The International Olympic Committee announced the approved additions, as well as cricket, flag football, lacrosse, and squash, in the early hours of October 16. Flag football and squash are newcomers to the international event, but it’s been over a century since cricket (1900 Paris Olympics) and lacrosse (1904 St. Louis, 1908 London) made the cut.
Baseball has occupied an inconsistent place in Olympic history. It technically made its debut at the 1904 event in St. Louis, but wasn’t played as a demonstration sport until the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. In that first contest, the United States bested Sweden – a team filled out by several Americans – 13-3 in a six-inning contest that inexplicably included the Swedes having a six-out sixth inning. Brief exhibition and modified games were featured at the Paris Summer Olympics in 1924, Berlin in ‘36, Helsinki in ‘52, ‘56 Melbourne, and ‘64 Tokyo before a tournament format was implemented for the 1984 games in Los Angeles.
Despite its long Olympic history, Baseball didn’t become an official medal sport until Barcelona 1992. The relationship between the Olympics and Major League Baseball only began in this century. Professional ballplayers weren’t admitted until 2000, and MLB wouldn’t allow members of the 40-man roster to participate in that year’s event, 2004, or 2008.
In 2005, the IOC voted to remove baseball and softball from the 2012 slate, something not seen since polo was removed in 1936. After a baseball-less Berlin Olympics in 2016, the sport returned to the 2020 games in Tokyo, which ended up taking place in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. It won’t be on the docket for the 2024 games in Paris, but Los Angeles isn’t too far off.
“The (World Baseball Softball Confederation) firmly believes that baseball and softball will help millions of fans engage with the Olympic Games,” said WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari in a statement on Monday. “Especially with (the United States) being home to many of the sports’ best players and biggest stars from across the world. It is going to be an electric atmosphere in L.A., where the best baseball and softball athletes in the world will have the opportunity to play on the biggest stage in front of a global audience of billions.”
In the past, several current and former Red Sox players have represented Team USA and other countries. Before they became teammates in Boston, Triston Casas and Masataka Yoshida faced off in Tokyo in 2021, with Yoshida’s Team Japan defeating Casas and Team USA to take home the gold. Zack Weiss, who briefly pitched for Boston this season, was a member of Team Israel in that year’s Olympics, playing alongside former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway and infielders Danny Valencia and Ian Kinsler, who was a member of the 2018 championship team. Former Red Sox prospect Denyi Reyes was a member of bronze-winning Team Dominican Republic.
Former Red Sox World Series champions Daisuke Matsuzaka (2007) and Koji Uehara (2013) won the bronze medal with Team Japan in 2004. Doug Mientkiewicz was already a gold medalist when he arrived in Boston at the 2004 trade deadline and helped reverse the curse; as a minor leaguer, he’d played for Team USA at the 2000 games in Sydney. And long before that, two young college baseball stars, Georgia Tech teammates Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra, were members of the fourth-place Team USA in Barcelona 1992.
Unfortunately, the Summer Olympics’ overlap with MLB’s intense 162-game schedule makes it difficult for teams to lose players. Instead, Boston sports fans can look forward to Paris 2024, which could feature several Celtics stars, including Jayson Tatum and Jrue Holiday.
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