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Official Admits Challenges Remain Regarding MLB Participation at Tokyo 2020

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Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Players Association. Photo: MORRY GASH/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) head Tony Clark has admitted there are “challenges” which need to be overcome if competitors from the league are to represent their countries when the sport makes its Olympic return at Tokyo 2020.

Clark warned the impact on the MLB schedule is the biggest obstacle, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics due to be held from July 24 to August 9, which falls in the middle of the baseball season.

The 2017 campaign in the MLB runs from April to October.

However, Clark claimed that the MLBPA would continue to have “dialogue” on the issue with the relevant stakeholders.

Baseball has not featured on the Olympic program since Beijing 2008, where South Korea claimed Olympic gold by beating Cuba in the final.

“There are challenges with the schedule, and there are challenges with major leaguers being involved,” Clark said.

“It doesn’t mean that we are not continuing to have dialogue.

“We have [been] going back.

“We will [be] going forward.

“Where we land, I don’t know.”

World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari has previously claimed he is confident the stars of the MLB, the world’s most lucrative baseball’s league, would play at Tokyo 2020.

The participation of MLB players was part of the proposal made by the WBSC for inclusion at the Games in the Japanese capital.

Baseball, which was dropped from the Olympics after Beijing 2008, softball, karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding were also added to the Tokyo 2020 program at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session prior to last year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“One of the things we were able to discuss during this round of bargaining were some additional flexibility in the schedule moving forward,” added Clark.

“Maybe there are some opportunities for a broader discussion than there have been a year ago.

“We’ll have to wait and see.

“We haven’t had that kind of substantive sit-down yet.”

Earlier this week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred admitted there was uncertainty surrounding players from the league taking part in Tokyo.

“With respect to Tokyo and the Olympics, we have yet to have a description from the federation or the IOC as to exactly what they envision for baseball in 2020,” he said.

“Absent that description, a detailed description, how many games, how many days, how many players, I’m just not in a position to tell you what this issue will take.”

A similar debate is ongoing regarding whether players from the National Hockey League (NHL) will compete at next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

A deal has not yet been reached dispute continued discussions between the NHL, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the IOC.

The Yokohama Stadium is set to be the main competition venue for baseball softball at Tokyo 2020.

Tokyo 2020 and the IOC appeared to have closed the door on a second Olympic baseball and softball venue in the capital city’s metropolitan area in December.

An additional venue in the Fukushima Prefecture is still being considered, after the prospect was mooted as a way to revitalize an area devastated by a 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami which left 16,000 dead.

By Liam Morgan

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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