POSTED: December 15th 2008

Baseball plays Europe card

Schiller at 2007 World Cup in Taiwan / Image: Marco Vasini
Schiller at 2007 World Cup in Taiwan / Image: Marco Vasini

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON/TAMPA: Cuba has sacrificed its role as host to this year’s Baseball World Cup in the bid to fire the sport’s campaign to regain Olympic status.

Baseball said goodbye to the summer Games after the Beijing competition but is one of seven sports – along with golf, karate, roller sports, rugby union, softball and squash – seeking access to the Games of 2016.

The Baseball World Cup was won last by the United States but the most frequent winner down the years has been Cuba and the next event was due to return there.

However, as IBAF president Harvey Schiller says: “The Cubans, because of our interest in returning baseball to the Olympic programme, agreed to move it to Europe – let’s be straightforward about this - to expose more of the IOC’s European voting members to the game of baseball – and to show our interest in developing the game.

“We have 38 member countries in Europe where the game has been played for many, many years, especially in Italy, the Netherlands, even Czech Republic, so we will be bringing the World Cup to Europe next year to bring more attention to our game.”

Before then, baseball can present the strength of its case through its likely inspection event, the World Baseball Classic in March. This is a three-year-old, 16-nation world invitational event which takes advantage of the pre-season availability of the top players.

Softball complication

Schiller points out: “The Classic is contracted with the Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association and is another effort to show that - just as soccer is in Olympic Games but has its own world cup, tennis has the US Open, basketball, ice hockey, you can pick many other sports – baseball is just one of many sports with its own other international events.”

One issue mixed up with the baseball bid is the sport’s relationship with softball.

The International Softball Federation wants those national associations which are tied in with baseball to pursue independence. Not surprisingly, the fallout has reached the IBAF.

Schiller says: “Many federations have contacted us saying it’s their desire to stay combined and there are probably a lot of reasons – the relationship that pre-existed, the joint use of fields and in many, many cases the economics.”

So what happens next? Schiller says: “Each federation has to do what’s in its own best interest but where it’s worked together I would hope they would stay together.

“A lot of people believe baseball and softball might do well to go into the Olympics together – men’s and women’s – but that’s up to the softball federation to agree or not.”

Keywords · Harvey Schiller · IBAF · baseball · Olympic Games 2016 · IOC · Copenhagen

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