Baseball Heavy Hitter Tells Olympics Backstory

(ATR) Peter O’Malley tells Around the Rings he’s confident the leaders of Major League Baseball will do “everything possible” to ensure Olympic reinstatement.

(ATR) Peter O’Malley tells Around the Rings he’s confident the leaders of Major League Baseball will do "everything possible" to ensure Olympic reinstatement.

"Commissioner Bud Selig is knowledgeable about the issues and he will be very creative in identifying the solutions," says O’Malley, the longtime Los Angeles Dodgers chairman and current owner of the San Diego Padres.

"The future of international baseball is bright and we see every day more and more countries are beginning baseball programs. Olympic baseball is necessary for that vision."

Baseball’s Olympic Backstory

Despite his day job with the Dodgers, the Brooklyn native found time to moonlight as a member of an outreach group assembled by Robert Smith, president of the International Baseball Federation throughout the 1980s.

Along with University of Southern California coach Rod Dedeaux and Bowie Kuhn, commissioner of MLB at the time, O’Malley campaigned for baseball’s inclusion as a medal sport at Barcelona 1992.

"Our work included many meetings, international travel and frequent conference calls. Our strategy was to broaden the base and contact everyone we knew who could help us get the necessary IOC votes," he tells ATR.

"When the IOC approved baseball as an official Olympic sport on Oct. 13, 1986, it was not only a historic day for baseball but a day of celebration for all of us who worked hard to accomplish this recognition."

According to O’Malley, baseball’s five Summer Games ending with Beijing 2008 were an unprecedented boon for the sport.

"Having gold medal recognition by the IOC not only resulted in worldwide exposure for the sport of baseball but also significant dollars for the development of baseball," he says.

"That is the only way the grassroots growth of baseball could happen throughout the world."

"Count Me In"

Less than 20 years after that initial vote of the IOC, however, its Executive Board just as swiftly gave baseball the boot along with softball.

Both bid unsuccessfully to get back in the Games ahead of Rio 2016, and now the two are in the final stages of a merger with hopes of success for 2020.

When approached by current IBAF president Riccardo Fraccari after his 2009 election, O’Malley says he told the Italian to "count me in" this time around too.

Now the IBAF is conducting a postal vote to approve its merger with the International Softball Federation as the ISF prepares for an extraordinary congress Oct. 30 in Houston to do likewise.

Both must receive the decisions of their member federations by the time of their presentation to the IOC Program Commission on Dec. 19 or 20.

That’s because a joint candidacy from baseball and softball faces an additional deadline above and beyond those for the other six sports.

A new, merged international federation would need to hold a congress – complete with elections – in sufficient time prior to SportAccord 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia for reports to be supplied to the EB.

In addition to nominating a sport to recommend to the IOC Session in September in Buenos Aires, the EB would also be deciding whether to recommend that the new IF be recognized.

To win Olympic reinstatement, then, baseball and softball would need both votes in St. Petersburg and both votes in Argentina.

"I admire the thorough planning of President Fraccari and I believe his approach to proceed with the International Softball Federation is wise," O’Malley tells ATR.

"This merger of the two sports greatly enhances the chances of both sports returning to the Olympics."

If anyone would know, it’s O’Malley, one of the only men to make a successful bid for baseball at the Olympics.

Reported by Matthew Grayson

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