Olympic Future

Two major changes happened in the sports of baseball and softball last week. The World Baseball and Softball Confederation (WBSC) became an Associate Member of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and Major League Baseball (MLB) announced a new ‘Trailblazers’ baseball tournament.

The annual SportsAccord Convention, renamed the Global Association of International Sports Federations during this year’s meetings, were held in Aarhus, Denmark last week. The meetings, which receive the full support of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), resulted in two very important moves for the European sports market.

First, the WBSC was named an Associate Member of the ASOIF. The organization is an umbrella under which the world governing bodies of the sports featured at the Summer Olympic Games do their work. Admittance to the body is a huge step toward seeing the sports of baseball and softball in games past the 2020 invitational. Second, the International Sports Press Association, with members in 11 European countries, was admitted as an Associate Member of the Global Association of International Sports Federations.

Related news comes out of the MLB. Continuing their ‘trailerblazer’ themed events, which started with Jackie Robinson day now celebrated across the MLB, the organization is giving girls a chance to play. "In memory of Jackie Robinson, Major League Baseball is committed to making our sport accessible and inclusive for all those who want to play, coach or participate," said Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr.

The inaugural Trailblazer Series will take place in Los Angeles, CA during their Jackie Robinson Day events. 100 girls up to 16 years old, representing 20 states across the United States and Canada, will participate in a three-day tournament in Los Angeles between April 13th - April 15th. There will be two age groups participating U12 and U16. Each team will be coached by women from the USA Baseball women’s national team and prominent coaches throughout the game, including team Israel’s WBSC coach Justine Siegel. All the teams will be special guests at Dodger stadium on April 15th. The event includes a week of training and is free to all participants.

All the teams are named in honor and recognition of A.A.G.P.B.L. players including Team Green, Team Winter, Team Dancer and Team Sams in the U12 division. In U16 the teams are Kamenshek, Paire, Burkovich and Blair. Both Burkovich and Blair will be on-hand to throw out the first pitch. During the game on the 15th, the team will unveil a new statue of Robinson commemorating the 70th anniversary of his breaking the color barrier in the baseball and the first 40,000 fans in attendance will get to take home a replica of the statue.

Paul Seiler, Executive Director and CEO of USA Baseball said, “The Trailblazer Series marks an exciting next chapter in the history of women's baseball.”

Los Angeles is in the running against Paris to host the 2024 Olympic Games. This puts the World Confederation for our sports in the inner circle of the Olympic Committees. It also shows that Los Angeles is not only interested in hosting the Games but vested in growing the sports and will likely keep them on their shortlist of requested sports for IOC consideration.

Of course the current president of the CEB is also the current president of the French Baseball & Softball Federation, located in Paris. If Paris gets behind our sports it will mean nothing without the continued support of the whole European baseball and softball and Olympic communities. If the IOC is pleased with the sports leading into 2020, European Federations will have to unite for Paris to stand a chance against the commitment of the MLB to the Los Angeles venue.

Paris’ commitment to the sports is not only our best chance at continuing to receive funds desperately needed to grow the sports but it may also be their best opportunity to ensure their award of the Games. Many European programs are still suffering the losses following their removal from the games in 2005. It is up to all of us to ensure that history does not repeat itself, no matter where the Games are held in 2024.

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