Baseball 'Confident' in MLB Deal for Tokyo 2020

(ATR) WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari is in a positive mood about brokering a deal with Major League Baseball.

(ATR) World Baseball Softball Confederation president Riccardo Fraccari is in positive mood about brokering a deal with Major League Baseball.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred last month appeared pessimistic about striking an agreement to release the MLB’s top players for the 2020 Olympics, in comments at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

But Fraccari told reporters at the SportAccord Convention in Aarhus that he was encouraged after talks with the MLB last week.

"I am confident that we can find a positive solution with the MLB," he said. "But I need to have more details."

"We have to finalize the format first," he said, noting that the MLB was awaiting information about the format and scheduling for the next phase of discussions.

Fraccari said he hopes talks with Tokyo 2020 officials will lead to approval of the format in the next month.

"The important thing is that we have 75 percent of professionals [worldwide] on board," he said, denying that it would be a big blow for the federation and the Games if MLB didn’t ultimately agree to release players. "I don’t think so."

WBSC secretary general Beng Choo Low tells Around the Rings that the MLB "haven’t shut the door". She added that everything hinged on the finer details.

Still to be worked out are how many games will be played in Fukushima, which last month received IOC backing to become an additional venue for baseball and softball at the Tokyo Games.

Ironing out the transport logistics and scheduling for the six men’s and six women’s teams in both baseball and softball competitions will be key to negotiations in the weeks ahead.

An Olympic qualification system is also a work in progress.

Fraccari said it was "very important to guarantee a successful event" in Tokyo to help secure the sport’s Olympic status.

Tokyo 2020 is working with the WBSC to stage Olympic matches featuring the Japanese national baseball and softball teams at the venue in Fukushima.

Yokohama Baseball Stadium is the primary venue to host baseball and softball competitions.

But Fraccari said the federation is seeking an additional venue in Tokyo to accommodate the scheduling of softball and baseball games. The IOC has so far rejected the approach.

"I am not prepared to damage the tournament. We have some suggestions to them. The discussions are ongoing. I hope for the best interests of the game to find a solution," he said.

Reported by Mark Bisson

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