By Andrew Dampf ,AP
ROME — After striking out twice, baseball and softball officials are counting on a combined bid to get back into the Olympics.
Following IOC vote defeats in 2005 and 2009 as separate sports, baseball and softball have merged into a single confederation as it competes against wrestling and squash for a single spot on the 2020 Olympic program, which will be decided by a Sept. 8 vote in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“We wanted a partnership that could work together and use the attributes of both of our sports,” said Don Porter, the American co-president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation.
“We’ve got an awful lot of young female athletes all over the world that are playing our sport and there’s a commercial side that baseball has that really strengthens our bid,” Porter added. “So if we put it together it’s a very strong added value to the Olympic program.”
The biggest obstacle to the bid is its failure to guarantee the presence of Major League Baseball players. MLB commissioner Bud Selig has said the season won’t be stopped to free players for the Olympics, but the confederation points out that there is plenty of room for negotiations — seven years — if it makes the cut.
“We never asked MLB to stop the season,” said Riccardo Fraccari, the Italian co-president of the confederation.
The bid proposes separate men’s baseball and women’s softball events of eight teams each, played as back-to-back six-day tournaments.
That’s a slightly different format from when baseball and softball were last played at the Olympics, at the 2008 Beijing Games. Baseball gained full medal status at the 1992 Barcelona Games and softball followed four years later in Atlanta. But both were dropped from the 2012 program in a 2005 vote.
As things stand now, Fraccari is hoping some MLB players would come even if MLB doesn’t stop.
“That’s precisely why we chose such a short program — to permit all pros who want to come to do so,” Fraccari said. “And that doesn’t apply only to MLB players but to players in all the major professional leagues around the world.”