Baseball and Softball Return to the Olympics: What to Watch and Expect

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For the first time in 13 years, baseball and softball competitions will be held at the Olympics.

Thanks to Japan’s passionate love for both sports, baseball and softball returned to the Games after being rejected as permanent Olympic bids in 2005. Then the criticisms were that sports weren’t global enough and in the case of baseball, the best players in the world did not participate. Baseball played by men in the Olympics officially joined the Games in 1992, and softball played by women in 1996.

It’s a long time coming for a few athletes this summer. Some softball players retired and later retired. when the sports are brought back for the Tokyo Games. Others held it for years, hoping for this moment.

But the return of softball and baseball will be brief because neither is a permanent Olympic sport. They were not included in the organizing committee of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris. But there is hope: baseball and softball are expected to return in 2028, when Los Angeles is home.

In previous Olympics, eight teams competed in each sport’s tournament. There will only be six this year.

teams in baseball, Japan (At every Olympics for baseball and number 1 in the world), United States of America (won a gold medal and ranked 4th in 2000) and South Korea (He won a gold medal in 2008 and took 3rd place). Taking part in the Olympics for the first time for baseball Mexicannumber 5 in the world and Israel, the Cinderella of the tournament and ranked 24th. Dominican Republic, the last team to qualify and number 7 in the world, rounds out the field.

(The country with the most gold medals in baseball—Cuba, three—did not qualify.)

In softball, teams United States of America (which won gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and is the world’s top-ranked team) and Japan (He won a gold medal in 2008 and took 2nd place). Number 3 Canada and number 8 Australia they will play their fifth Olympic game in baseball. make the first Mexicanranked 5th in the world. number 9 Italy It’s back for the first time since 2004.

In softball, the tournament is simple: each team will play each other once, that is, five games per team. Then, after the round-robin stage, the top two teams will play for the gold medal, while the next top two teams will compete for the bronze medal.

In baseball, the situation is more complex. The six teams are split into two groups of three, with Japan, Mexico and the Dominican Republic in Group A and South Korea, the United States and Israel in Group B. Each team will play with the other two teams in their group during the round. robin stage.

In the qualifying round, the two group winners go directly to the second qualifying round. However, two second-place teams and two third-place teams face each other. The loser of the second game is eliminated.

From then on the games are played in a double elimination format. The winners from either side of the bracket – the winners and the losers sides – play each other for the gold medal. Do you understand it all? (For an easier to digest flowchart, look here.)

Matches will be played mostly at Yokohama Baseball Stadium, about 40 minutes south of downtown Tokyo. Several games, including the opening games of each tournament, will be at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, about three and a half hours north of Tokyo.

The softball tournament started before the opening ceremony and will run until 27 July. (United States of America won their first two games.) The baseball competition runs from July 28 to August 7.

Japan is the betting favorite in baseball, followed by the United States and South Korea. The best professional league in the world, Major League Baseball in the United States, Doesn’t pause its season for the Olympics, nor its players are allowed to play in the Games. But Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan and the Korea Baseball Organization in South Korea are taking a break to allow their players to participate.

As a result, the Japanese roster is full of talent. Former Yankees All-Star Masahiro Tanaka, who has returned to the Nippon league’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles this season; pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano; and home players Hayato Sakamoto and Tetsuto Yamada. There are also younger highlights like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a hard-hitting pitcher, and Seiya Suzuki, a strong-hitting outfielder.

In softball, many signs point to another showdown between the United States and Japan for the gold medal. The Americans took the top prize in three of the previous four Olympics. The only time they couldn’t was in 2008, when Japan gave the United States their only defeat in that tournament behind Yukiko Ueno’s strong arm. He scored 413 pitches in three games over the past two days, including beating American star pitchers Cat Osterman and Monica Abbott in a 3-1 win for the gold medal.

All three of these shooters are back, and the US roster has added some then-defunct young talents, including a clumsy outfielder Haylie McCleney and infielder Ali Aguilar.

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