Baseball and Softball Return to the Olympics: What to Watch and Expect

Baseball and Softball Return to the Olympics: What to Watch and Expect
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Baseball and Softball Return to the Olympics: What to Watch and Expect

Baseball and Softball Return to the Olympics: What to Watch and Expect

For the first time in 13 years, baseball and softball will be played at the Olympics.

Thanks to Japan’s ardent love for both sports, baseball and softball are back at the Games after being rejected in 2005 as standing Olympic offers. Critics then were that sports were not global enough, and in the case of baseball, the best players in the world were not participating. Baseball, played by men at the Olympics, officially joined the Games in 1992 and softball, played by women, in 1996.

This summer is a long time coming for many athletes. Some softball players had retired and then came out of retirement when their sport was brought back for the Tokyo Games. Others have held on for years hoping for this moment.

The return of softball and baseball will be brief, however, as neither is a permanent Olympic sport. They were not selected by the organizing committee for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris. But there is hope: Baseball and softball are set to make a big comeback in 2028, when Los Angeles plays host.

In previous Olympics, eight teams competed in each sport’s tournament. This year, there will be only six.

In baseball, teams are Japan (who has competed in every baseball Olympics and is ranked No.1 in the world), the United States (who won gold in 2000 and is ranked # 4) and South Korea (who won gold in 2008 and is ranked # 3). Making their first Olympics appearances for baseball are Mexico, which is No. 5 worldwide, and Israel, the Cinderella of the tournament and ranked # 24. the Dominican Republic, last qualified team and world n ° 7, completes the peloton.

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(The country with the most gold medals in baseball – Cuba, with three – did not qualify.)

In softball, teams are headlining the United States (which won gold in 1996, 2000 and 2004, and is the highest ranked team in the world) and Japan (who won gold in 2008 and is ranked # 2). n ° 3 Canada and n ° 8 Australia will make their fifth Olympic appearance in softball. Do his first is Mexico, ranked No. 5 worldwide. No. 9 Italy is back for the first time since 2004.

In softball, the tournament is simple: each team will compete once, so five games per team. Then the top two teams after the round robin will play for the gold medal, while the next top two teams will compete for a bronze medal.

In baseball, it’s more complicated. The six teams are divided into two groups of three: Japan, Mexico and the Dominican Republic in Group A, and South Korea, the United States and Israel in Group B. Each team will face the other two teams from his group during the tour. robin stage.

In the round of 16, the two group winners go directly to a knockout second round. But the two second place teams and the two third place teams go head to head. The loser of this last game is eliminated.

From then on, the matches are played in a double elimination format. The winners on either side of the medium – the winning side and the losing side – compete for the gold medal. Do you have it all? (For a more easily digestible flowchart, see here.)

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The games will be played primarily at Yokohama Baseball Stadium, about 40 minutes south of downtown Tokyo. A few games, including the opening games of each tournament, will take place at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, about three and a half hours north of Tokyo.

The softball tournament has already started, even before the opening ceremony, and runs until July 27. (The United States have won their first two games.) The baseball competition runs from July 28 to August 7.

In baseball, the betting favorite is Japan, followed by the United States and South Korea. The best professional league in the world, Major League Baseball in the United States, does not interrupt its season for the Olympics, and its players are not allowed to participate in the Games. But the Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan and the Korea Baseball Organization in South Korea are taking a break to allow their players to participate.

As a result, the Japanese roster is filled with talent. It has many veteran stars who are former Japanese league MVPs, including pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, former Yankees All-Star player who returned to Tohoku Rakuten’s Golden Eagles of the Nippon League this season; pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano; and infielder Hayato Sakamoto and Tetsuto Yamada. There are also young stars like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a hard-throw pitcher, and Seiya Suzuki, a powerful outfielder.

In softball, there are many signs that the United States and Japan will face another gold medal showdown. The Americans have won first prize in three of the previous four Olympics. The only time they didn’t was in 2008, when Japan handed the United States their only loss in this tournament behind the mighty arm of Yukiko Ueno. She threw 413 shots in three games over the past two days, including beating American star pitchers Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott in a 3-1 gold medal victory.

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Those three pitchers are back, and the American roster has added young talent who weren’t there at the time, including Haylie McCleney, a hitting outfielder, and infielder Ali Aguilar.

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