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Why Baseball and Softball Are Returning for the 2028 L.A. Olympics — But Not Paris

Organizers and athletes are hoping to hit it out of the park when baseball and softball return to the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games.

By Jill Sederstrom

America’s National Pastime may not be in the Paris 2024 Olympics — but baseball will make a triumphant return in the Los Angeles 2028 Games

Baseball and softball have traditionally had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Olympics games, appearing as medal sports some years and being left off the list of events in other years. Both sports were excluded from the games in 2012 and 2016 before returning in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, only to be dropped again in 2024. 

After the brief hiatus away from the ballfield this year, baseball and softball will be added back onto the list of events for LA28.

RELATED: Find Out Which New Sports Will Debut at the 2024 Paris Olympics

Athletes Celebrate the News

Atheletes hold up a flag with the olympic rings on it in Australia

The International Olympic Committee voted to bring both sports back in October of 2023, along with cricket and lacrosse. The 2028 Games will also mark the debut of two new events: flag football and squash. 

“The choice of these five new sports is in line with the American sports culture and will showcase iconic American sports to the world, while bringing international sports to the United States. These sports will make the Olympic Games LA28 unique,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement about the decision. “Their inclusion will allow the Olympic Movement to engage with new athlete and fan communities in the US and globally.”

After the announcement, some of softball’s top players were already hoping to step up to the plate for Team USA in 2028.

Jocelyn Alo — who holds the distinction as the 2022 NCAA home run queen — told Sports Illustrated it has been her “goal” to be a member of the U.S. Olympic softball team ever since her dad brought home a poster of the 2008 team and hung it on her bedroom wall as a child.

“For us to be at the Olympics, on literally the biggest stage, is huge,” Alo said. “I can’t even put it into words. It’s just — I’m speechless trying to comprehend and wrap my head around the fact that I could actually be playing in the Olympics.”

While the MLB has yet to determine whether baseball pros would be eligible to compete in the Games, athletes like Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper have also publicly praised the IOC’s move. 

Christopher Austin is celebrated by Todd Frazier (L) on his two run home run

"There’s nothing more worldwide than the Olympics," Harper told the media, according to USA Today. "I watch the most random sports in the Olympics because it’s the Olympics, and that’s really cool. I love hockey. It’s one of my favorite sports to watch. To see (the NHL) take that three-week break and let those guys go play, that’s another big goal that we should have as Major League Baseball.”

Harper said he has talked to “numerous people” with the MLB about allowing professional players to participate in the Games, even if it means taking a break from the regular season.

"I would love to be a part of that. We have the WBC (World Baseball Championship), but it’s not the same. It’s not. The Olympics is something that you dream about playing in,” he added.

Schedule Conflicts

Scheduling has been the biggest issue keeping the MLB’s top athletes out of Olympic competition. To date, only amateurs or those professional players who are not on a 40-man roster are allowed to play — but the tide could be turning.

The Summer Olympics typically fall in the middle of the MLB’s regular season, making it difficult for top athletes to step away from their team. 

“No matter how you put the event together, there would be a significant amount of major league players who would be away from their teams,” Commissioner of the MLB Robert Manfred explained to Forbes in 2020. “It would alter the competition in our everyday game. I do not believe our owners would support some sort of a break in our season. Continuity is really important to our competition.”

But Casey Wasserman, the CEO of the Wasserman agency who played a key role in bringing the Olympics to LA, has been swinging for the fences and may have just found a possible solution that could limit the disruption to MLB teams. 

Team United States players celebrate with teammate Kelsey Stewart #7 after she hit a walk-off home run

At an MLB owners meeting in February, Wasserman suggested a tournament option that would include a condensed schedule and take place during what would normally be the league’s All-Star break, according to The Athletic. 

Although no formal decision has been reached about whether MLB athletes will be eligible to play and what that might look like, it seems that MLB owners and general managers may be willing to play ball.

“The Players Association would be willing to listen to any formal proposal related to baseball and the Olympics,” Tony Clark, the Major League Baseball Players Association executive director, said in a statement.

Manfred also praised Wasserman for bringing baseball back to the games.

“We think that’s a great thing. And we will continue to listen as to whether there’s some arrangement that could be worked out. And I’m not saying one word about major league players — some arrangement that could be worked out to make it the best possible tournament,” he said.

Don't Miss

Watch live coverage of the Opening Ceremony on Friday, July 26, on NBC and Peacock beginning at 12 p.m. ET. Telemundo will provide Spanish-language coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET. Primetime coverage starts at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Peacock.

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