2008 was the last year the Summer Olympics showcased baseball and softball as Olympic events. But, it was recently announced that starting with the 2020 Olympics, baseball and softball will be included again.
And, make no mistake, baseball and softball back as Olympic sports is worth celebrating. But, before organizing the parade down Main Street, here are five things to know about the International Olympic Committee's approval:
1. Baseball Is Popular In Tokyo
A big reason the Olympics approved baseball and softball as Olympic sports for 2020 is because of its popularity in Japan. Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Olympics and the popularity of baseball in Japan, no doubt, helped make the IOC's decision easier. A more widely embraced sport will translate to larger audiences at the venues and, of course, more excitement for the events on TV.
2. It's Temporary
Alas, the approval of baseball and softball is only for 2020...for now. Moving forward, it will be the decision of the Olympic host city to propose new sports that could potentially replace baseball or softball. So, South American or North American host cities would be ideal for the sports' chances. Europe? Not so much.
3. Why Did They Leave?
Surprisingly, baseball was only added as an Olympic sport in 1992 and softball followed in 1996. The last year they were played in the Olympics was 2008. The reason the IOC opted to replace baseball and softball was because the star power wasn't there. While other sports were attracting top athletes from around the world, baseball and softball were not. Softball finally did in 2008, but the U.S. baseball roster included future MLB stars Jake Arrieta, Stephen Strasburg, and Dexter Fowler, but little else.
4. The Sports Inclusion Benefits America
Now you can start celebrating. U.S. Softball won the gold in 1996, 2000, and 2004 before being upset by Japan in 2008. Cuba won three gold medals during baseball's original run, but U.S. Baseball did take home gold in 2000. If softball stars and some MLB talent participate, then America will be favorites to medal in both sports.
5. Major League Baseball Concern
Keep in mind the Summer Olympics are usually held in August. That would be during the home stretch of the baseball season. MLB stars didn't opt out of the Olympic games for selfish reasons, but because the MLB season was happening. And, will MLB really want some of their top stars to participate in the Olympics when there is revenue, TV rights, ballpark attendance to consider?
Baseball and softball are back as Olympic sports for 2020. Now, let's see if they'll stick around. What do you think? Tell us in the comments. Meanwhile, if you have questions on baseball bats or softball bats, give us a call at (866) 321-2287.