Baseball-Softball on IOC Short List for September Vote

Baseball-Softball on IOC Short List for September Vote

In a world where pro athletes play for millions and millions of dollars and, in many some cases, under-deliver and fans pay unrealistic prices for tickets, college softball prospers and grows each and every year as the athletes get better and the overall parity of the sport continues to improve. Unfortunately, for some softball players, the Women’s College World Series will be the biggest happening in their softball careers. And there is nothing wrong with that, but from 1996 to 2008, the biggest happening in amateur softball was the Olympics where the USA National Team won three of four gold medals and thrilled the world with their exciting play and displays of skill on the diamond.

Then, to the dismay of those involved in the sport, the IOC threw a monkey wrench into the whole process and  took softball out of the Olympics and deprived youngsters, such as Erin Gabriel of the University of Tennessee, a chance to realize her dream of playing Olympic softball. Laura Berg, Michele Smith, Lisa Fernandez, Leah O’Brien Amico and others realized their dream of playing Olympic softball. Gabriel, who is sidelined with an injury but did accompany the Lady Vols to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series, probably won’t realize her dream of playing Olympic softball. No matter if it’s softball or any other amateur sport, an athlete wants to play the best competition from throughout the world and the Olympics is the competition in which to do it.

Softball-baseball was one of the three sports shortlisted from the list of core Olympic sports, along with wrestling and squash, for the 2020 Olympics following Wednesday’s vote by the IOC Executive Board  in St. Petersburg, Russia.  The final decision will be made in September after a full membership vote (101) of the IOC in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Before the vote, baseball-softball had a one in eight chance of getting back into the Olympics. With karate, roller sports, wakeboarding, sport climbing and the Chinese martial art of wushu eliminated from Wednesday’s vote, softball-baseball’s odds now are one in three of getting back on the program.  That wouldn’t be so bad except that wresting is the odds on favorite to regain its spot on the Olympic program.

Those involved in wrestling were shocked that the sport was removed from Olympics about three months ago and took immediate action to remedy the situation and get the sport back into the Olympics.  A strategic plan will be developed, along with marketing of the sport by the Swiss marketing firm TSE Consulting, and presented to FILA in August. Former U.S. Olympic CEO Jim Scherr said the sport now needs to make sure the 101 members know about wrestling’s strengths, the changes already made and its plans for the future.

Some figured baseball and softball as among the final three as a surprise because karate was projected for third place, but apparently a letter of support from Major League Baseball helped baseball-softball’s presentation, said Don E. Porter, the co-president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation. “We hope to continue discussions with them as we finish the seventh inning and head to the ninth,” Porter wrote in an email to USA TODAY Sports.   Those discussions would center on Major League Baseball allowing its players to compete with a condensed Olympic schedule, but MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has said in the past that baseball wouldn’t stop its schedule to allow major league players to participate in the Olympics.  Not having major league players in the Olympics was a contributing factor why the IOC dropped baseball and it’s a critical issue to say the least.

So where does this leave baseball-softball? Just outside the door looking in and hoping to convince the IOC that baseball-softball deserves another chance on the Olympic program. But the door may already have been shut by wrestling. Baseball-softball will be left out in the cold and so will Erin Gabriel and future softball players whose dreams unfortunately may never get realized.