By Duncan Mackay

baseball-softball pictureApril 8 - Baseball is set to officially cement its new partnership with softball as the two sports step up their campaign to get back onto the Olympic programme for 2020.

The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Congress at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa in Tokyo next Sunday (April 14) will officially rubber-stamp the formation of a new combined baseball and softball governing body - World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) - in a bid for Olympic reinstatement.

IBAF President and new World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Co-President Riccardo Fraccari will chair the Congress while International Softball Federaration (ISF) President and WBSC Co-President Don Porter lead a delegation of representatives from his sport.

This will finalise a long and detailed process to meet the stringent criteria of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) whereby the two independent and recognised international federations currently governing baseball and softball shall merge into a single international governing body.

"This is about far more than simply ratifying a legal document," said Fraccari.

"This is a major achievement in a two-year campaign that embodies the dreams of millions of men and women, and boys and girls around the world - from the professional leagues to the grassroots level - who want to play for their country in the Olympic Games, the pinnacle of sporting excellence."

The formation of the body will also be marked by a new marketing campaign to help raise awareness of baseball-softball's bid to win back the Olympic places they both controversially lost after Beijing 2008.

Riccardo Fraccari and Don Porter in HollandRiccardo Fraccari (left) and Don Porter (right) will be the Co-Presidents of the new World Baseball Softball Confederation

The WBSC will unveil a new campaign logo and theme - and web site - and launch a campaign on social media to help its bid.

Among those are due to appear at the event are Antonio Castro, the son of former Cuban leadef Fidel Castro.

He is a vice-president of the IBAF and will appear on a panel that will also include Fraccari and Porter, as well as Ryozo Kato, Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball, Japan's professional league.

"Baseball and softball rank by far as the most followed sport in the world that is not on the Olympic programme today," said Porter. 

"And it offers boys and girls everywhere an easy path into a great team sport unlike anything else in the Olympic Games. 

"Even though we have 65 million players today, there's plenty of room for growth. 

"That's why this campaign is so important to us.

"The explosive potential of baseball-softball captured within the Olympics could lead to tremendous and unparalleled growth.

"In fact, we believe baseball and softball can become the next great global game and serve to instill the ideals of Olympism in the lives of many more millions of young, advanced people - and future generations - around the world."

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