Is baseball in the olympics? While there are world championships for both men and women in both sports, at the Olympic level baseball has been a men’s-only sport while softball has been a women’s-only sport. There are differences in the number of players on each team between the two sports, the size of the field, and in some rules.
Softball pitchers are also required to throw underhand, and most pitchers throw using the windmill pitch style, where the ball is thrown after rotating in a large circle. In softball, top female pitchers can reach speeds of over 100km/h. That speed fits with the fast-paced nature of the game. Since the bases aren’t as far apart, there is a shorter pitching distance. The game is also shorter in duration to baseball, with only seven innings compared to baseball’s nine.
Baseball and Softball confirmed as part of Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 sports programme
The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) is delighted and honoured that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session has confirmed baseball and softball as part of the sports programme for the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028.
The WBSC has been in close dialogue with the IOC and LA28, as well as other key stakeholders, on why baseball and softball would be the perfect addition to the sports programme in Los Angeles.
Both sports have continued to enjoy global growth since the success of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and are woven into the DNA of the United States. The WBSC is confident that baseball and softball will contribute to making the Olympic Games LA28 an incredible celebration of sport and unity.
WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari said: “We are delighted that baseball and softball have been confirmed as part of the sports programme at the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 by the IOC Session.
“The WBSC firmly believes that baseball and softball will help millions of fans engage with the Olympic Games, especially with USA being home to many of the sports’ best players and biggest stars from across the world. It is going to be an electric atmosphere in LA where the best baseball and softball athletes in the world will have the opportunity to play on the biggest stage in front of a global audience of billions.
“Baseball has been in the Olympics six times and softball five times and their inclusion in LA28 will excite athletes and fans across the US and around the world, inspiring a new generation of boys and girls to chase Olympic glory.
“Our ongoing efforts to develop baseball and softball globally will continue as we look ahead with much excitement to Baseball5 at the Youth Olympic Games 2026 and baseball/softball in LA28 as well as our ultimate aim of our sport earning a permanent place on the Olympic programme.”
Why is there No Baseball at the 2024 Olympics?
Paris marks the 32nd Summer Olympics and baseball has been included in only 14 of those programs. You can probably understand that the sport wasn’t included early on as it had yet to catch on worldwide. It was held in 1904, 1912, 1936, 1952, 1956 and 1964, often as just a single exhibition game with no medals at stake. It was still a demonstration sport when it returned 20 years later in 1984 at Los Angeles and 1988 in Seoul but this time in a tournament format. That led to baseball being adopted as part of the regular sports program in 1992 in Barcelona and the first medals awarded.
It remained as part of the core lineup from 1992 through 2008. The International Olympic Committee voted in 2005 to eliminate baseball and softball (the sports are linked for gender equity purposes) from the main program. Baseball came back when the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics were held in 2021, but that was because the hosts made the request as part of five sports added on a temporary basis.
France doesn’t have the baseball history of Japan, as it was not one of the 20 teams that qualified for the 2023 World Baseball Classic (Great Britain and the Czech Republic represented France’s group). So Paris did not put baseball forward as one of its exhibition sports, instead choosing surfing, breakdancing, skateboarding and rock climbing. Skateboarding and rock climbing made their Olympic debuts in Tokyo.
The good news is that baseball-softball will be back at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics after the IOC executive board approved the inclusion along with flag football, lacrosse and squash as the host-added events. A formal vote by the larger IOC member will take place this week at the annual meeting that began Sunday in Mumbai, India. That vote is a formality.
The question really is: Why doesn’t baseball have the traction to stay in the Olympic rotation? The World Baseball Classic was ostensibly created to get baseball back in the Olympics, but that hasn’t worked out as planned. More countries have been involved in the WBC and seeing teams from the Czech Republic and its roster that included a high school geography teacher, financial analyst and fireman will help the popularity in other countries.
But the WBC, which is affiliated with Major League Baseball, is not an annual event. The WBC debuted in 2006, the year after the IOC eliminated baseball, then has been held in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2023 and has basically taken over as the sport’s world championship event on the international stage. Wedging the WBC into a few weeks of spring training every four years (when it is on schedule) is in line with a sport such as basketball, but not hockey, which holds a world championship every year.
The answer is likely more to do with the pairing with softball and gender equity. The IOC has pushed for an even split in the number of male and female athletes. More divisions have been added to sports such as boxing and the debut of mixed events (men and women on the same team) have helped that cause. In the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, there were 45.6% female athletes, with that number rising to 48.8% in Tokyo. For Paris, it is expected to be a 50-50 split for the first time ever. Of the 32 sports in Paris, 28 will have equal representation.
In Tokyo, the Olympic fields for baseball and softball were six countries each. That can be attributed to softball’s lack of international popularity, particularly in Europe. Five countries have won medals at the five Olympics softball has been included: U.S., Canada, Japan, China and Australia. Roster size for Olympic baseball and softball vary greatly, with baseball having 24 players and softball needing just 16. Even at six teams, that is a 48-player difference in the genders, a gap that has to be made up elsewhere.
There is hope for baseball to be in the 2032 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Brisbane, Australia. That country has a strong reputation in baseball and softball. Beyond that, sites for future Summer Olympics have not been set, which means baseball in the Olympics is not guaranteed.
No simple solution is present. We all want to see baseball and softball in the Olympics. As women’s sports gain popularity, could there be some female-only ones that elevate to Olympic status and allow for the inclusion of baseball-softball while maintaining the gender balance? That would be the best path.
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