Baseball, softball consider merger for Olympic bid

By Graham Dunbar ,AP

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Baseball and softball could merge into a single international governing body in the hopes of returning to the Olympics. The two sports are meeting with Olympic officials this week to find out how much co-operation is required for trying to regain their Summer Games status, International Softball Federation President Don Porter said Tuesday. “There are a lot of benefits of being an Olympic sport. That is what you have to weigh against losing your identity,” Porter told The Associated Press. Porter and International Baseball Federation (IBAF) President Riccardo Fraccari are meeting separately with IOC sports director Christophe Dubi to get a clearer picture of bidding to be part of the 2020 Olympic program. Fraccari said the sports “have to study many things.” Baseball-playing countries must first back a joint bid at a Dec. 3 meeting in Dallas. Baseball and softball are currently competing with karate, roller sports, sports climbing, squash, wakeboard and wushu for one spot on the 2020 program. The IOC will vote on the sports in September 2013. The IOC voted in 2005 to remove baseball and softball from the Olympic program after the 2008 Beijing Games. Two years ago, baseball and softball failed to get IOC support for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics when their separate bids included proposals for women’s baseball and men’s softball. Golf and seven-a-side rugby, which offered men’s and women’s medal events, were voted onto the 2016 program. Both baseball and softball now agree, following IOC advice, that co-operation is their best hope of regaining Olympic status. “As we understand right now, it would have to be one bid in another federation. We can’t have two federations,” Porter said. Porter’s federation asked him to explore a joint bid, though he acknowledges a potential problem could be simply naming a merged body. “Whatever that other name is, we don’t know,” he said. “Softball people don’t want it to be baseball, and baseball people don’t want it to be softball.” Variations on the term “diamond ball” were suggested without great enthusiasm, Porter said. However, Porter said he was encouraged by a willingness to combine forces. “There is no animosity at all. We want to come up with a detailed plan that is going to work,” he said. Fraccari declined to look beyond his IBAF congress next month. “The first step is to have a common decision to (bid) together,” Fraccari told the AP by telephone. “Maybe these are all things that will follow the first decision.”