(ATR) In the midst of the joyful demonstrations of their Tokyo 2020 qualification, the Dominicans learned 48 hours later that they will be opening the Olympic tournament against the favorite Japan.
The Japan-Dominican Republic game on July 28 will be held at the Azuma Stadium in Fukushima, more than 230 kilometers (143 miles) from the Japanese capital.
The announcement was made on Monday after the draw for the two groups by the executive committee of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).
Japan, Mexico and the Dominican Republic will be in Group A, and South Korea, reigning champion in Beijing 2008, the United States and Israel will be in Group B.
Baseball returns to the Olympic program after being absent in the last two editions and will disappear again at Paris 2024.
However, the baseball family does not seem to be depressed because they are confident that they will have a safe place in the program of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles 2028. They could also expect flexibility from Major League Baseball to allow active stars from the different qualified countries to play at LA28.
According to MLB regulations, only players outside the 40-man roster of the 30 Major League Baseball clubs are allowed to play in Tokyo.
But before the suspension of the Pre-Olympics in Arizona in March 2020 due to Covid-19, a pact between MLB, the Players' Association and the WBSC had emerged to allow the participation of players from the 40-man roster who were not on the active rosters of the clubs.
The obvious possibility that the IOC will vote in favor of Brisbane next month as host of the 2032 Olympic Games is also another good sign for baseball/softball in its desire to be officially reinstated in the Olympic program, given Australia's track record in these disciplines.
The big absentee from the Tokyo Olympic tournament will be Cuba, which won gold in 1992, 1996 and 2004.
PARTY IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
On Saturday, the Dominicans uncorked bottles of champagne at the Puebla stadium after winning the sixth and last Olympic ticket with an 8-5 victory over Venezuela.
In this way the WBSC managed to complete the final Olympic qualifying tournament after more than a year of cancellations of various competitions in several categories with the Pre-Olympics at the forefront.
The final part of the qualifying circuit had begun weeks before in Florida and concluded in Puebla, Mexico, which stepped in at the last minute to host after the withdrawal of Taiwan due to a spike in Covid infections. China and Australia joined Chinese Taipei in withdrawing, leaving only the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the Netherlands vying for the final Tokyo spot.
"The sanitary protocols were complied with to the letter and not a single contagion was detected," Willi Kaltschmitt tells Around the Rings. The Guatemalan is an honorary member of the IOC and vice-president of the WBSC, who supervised the competition in the Mexican city.
Dominican baseball will participate for the third time in the Olympic Games, the first time in 1984 when the sport was an exhibition in Los Angeles. The Caribbean country was one of the eight national teams in the first official Olympic baseball tournament in Barcelona 92.
"We will go to Japan with the same positivism that our players showed in Florida and Puebla," said Dominican manager Hector Borg in the videoconference after qualifying.
Written and reported by Miguel Hernandez
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