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No crying in baseball: Sport moves on

Vi delar med oss av en läsvärd artikel i Baseball Digest av Jerry Milani angående IOK:s styrelses beslut om att "rekommendera" golf och rugby till OS-programmet 2016.

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by Jerry Milani...baseballdigest.com

As Tom Hanks’ character Jimmy Dugan said in the film A League of The Own, there is “no crying in baseball.” So just over a week after the International Olympic Committee snubbed the sport’s comeback attempt for reinstatement for the 2016 Games, it will come as no surprise that the global interest and achievements of baseball have continued on unabated, showing more clearly that the IOC is missing a great game – both literally and figuratively.

“We answered all their (the IOC’s Executive Committee) questions and showed how we could be a great partner, but it is clear to us that the sport of baseball is not one that the senior members of the IOC want as part of the Games,” IBAF President Dr. Harvey Schiller said recently. “Now, if it were to go to a general vote, like golf and rugby will, we know we would have a great shot because of all the nations that support the sport, but we won’t get that chance. At the end of the day it came down to a very limited number of officials to decide the fate of a global sport, and despite our best efforts, that group, even with some baseball supportive nations in the room, chose to go in a different direction. What makes it even more frustrating is to see all the support we have received after the vote and all the positives that continue to come. That shows us that we did the right thing and that baseball will grow despite the IOC’s decision.”

While the other five sports that were rejected appear to be retrenching (one, karate, has even called for the resignation of its senior leadership), baseball has charged ahead as it looks forward to the Little League World Series, the Under 16 Youth Championships in Chinese Taipei and other youth championships, as well as the Baseball World Cup in Europe and the professional championships later in the fall. In total, over 60 nations will be involved in the elite side of just that group of championships, even more proof that the global tide of the sport is rising as the Olympic ship sailed.

Just in the past week, some of the reasons for baseball being out of the Olympics have been dispelled again. Case in point: It was always whispered that the lack of “top pros” for 2016 was a factor, an issue which baseball had addressed in their plan, even submitting statements of support from players, both confidentially and publicly, to the IOC. While the “name” stars of today are great to have in support, 2016 remains seven years hence, so it would appear that support of those who could actually be the marketable stars when the 2016 Games occur would be most important. If that’s the logical choice, then the statements of support – vehement and passionate support – from players like Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg and Yu Darvish, names today who will play tomorrow, should have held even more weight than, say, Tiger Woods, a baseball fan who, at age 40 in 2016, may be more apt to watch his beloved Dodgers play than to participate at the highest level wherever golf will get its Olympic chance.

Even more telling is the activity on a European front this past week, which saw Sweden’s Bryan Berglund and Germany’s 16-year-old Max Kepler-Rozycki sign record long term deals with the Florida Marlins and Minnesota Twins, respectively. They are just two of the new “faces of baseball” who will be at the forefront when 2016 rolls around. Add in players like Pittsburgh Pirate prospect, South Africa’s Mpho Gift Ngoepe (recently featured in Sports Illustrated) and Italy’s Alex Maestri, soon to be a Chicago Cub, and all the other nations represented among baseball’s stars and prospects, and one can continue to wonder how the IOC has missed what baseball could offer, not just to its millions of current fans, but to the youth of the world looking for role models come the 2016 Games. Even September’s World Cup, which will not have players from MLB or the NPB playing, has over 240 professional players (from the minor leagues and other professional leagues around the world) submitted on rosters as eligible to play for the 22 countries, twice the number of professionals that were expected by MLB and over three times as many professional players on similar rosters submitted for the 2007 World Cup. Those are just some recent examples of the international talent pool that continues to get deeper as the sport gains exposure in new areas.

Last, what also seems to be lost in the Olympic cause these days is the appeal to youth and the opportunities of the Games to partner with sports that appeal and can generate interest for all. While golf, despite the efforts by the leaders of the game today, continues to be a very exclusive sport in most of the world, and rugby, despite its popularity in the Commonwealth countries, remains a pretty violent and limiting game in appeal (a case can be made that American football may have as wide a fan base in terms of numbers and reach), baseball is the largest and most inclusive sport not in the Games. In addition to all the youth championships already mentioned (Teeball, in a down economy, saw a double digit increase in participation this year, a number which few youth sports can report), this week’s Wall Street Journal had an extensive piece on beep baseball, which gets blind children involved in the sport, and one on the growth of baseball in Turkey, again showing baseball’s diversity and ability to be a social unifier.

“The support is there from the youth, no question,” Schiller said, “And that is what really keeps me up at night now. The emails and letters we have gotten from groups in countries like Vietnam, Pakistan, Nigeria and China, where boys and girls are now discovering a sport that teaches such great life lessons, were very positive, and all are asking us ‘Why’ and ‘What else can they do to help?’ That appeal to youth is what I think the IOC has missed in terms of baseball.

“Yes, we presented a plan that would deliver stars and market the game for seven years,” he added. However even more important is that grassroots support and development already exists in baseball; it doesn’t have to be started from scratch because of the commitment that senior leadership has already been made. That support matches what the IOC wants to achieve in terms of appeal to youth, and would have made for a great partnership, helping both baseball and the Olympic program grow together.

“That being said, baseball’s goals remain the same, and the sport, with great partners like MLB, the NPB, the Player’s Association and all the youth support organizations and our 128 member federations, will find a way to answer those pleas and questions of those who will play, because baseball is a sport that has always found a way to grow, and grow we shall.”

No crying from Dr. Schiller and baseball’s leadership, only optimism. A quality which is at the core of baseball’s global appeal, and one that will continue to drive the growth of the sport at all levels, despite the decision of those who snubbed the sport for 2016.


Publicerad: 2009-08-23

Senast uppdaterad: 2009-08-23



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