April 26 - Baseball today claimed that it had the full backing of the world's most powerful and richest league in its bid to regain its place on the Olympic programme for 2020, even though the sport's most influential official cast a shadow over its campaign by warning he will not stop its season to accommodate its participation.
Bud Selig (pictured top), the Commissioner of Major League Baseball (MLB) in the United States, told a group of editors from the Associated Press that it would be impractical to introduce a break mid-season to allow the top players to take part in the Olympics, something which is seen as vital if baseball is return to the Games after it was dropped following Beijing 2008.
"We can't stop our season in August," he said.
"Do I wish I could?
"But is it practical?
Riccardo Fraccari, co-President of the new World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), tried to downplay Selig's comments.
"We have the full and unwavering support of MLB and all the pro leagues around the world," he said.
"They are fully behind our campaign to get baseball and softball returned to the Olympic programme - and they are supporting us in a number of substantial ways."
Fraccari, however, failed to address the specific issue raised by Selig's comments, which is whether the world's top players would be made available to compete in the Olympics.
The absence of MLB players in the Olympics is seen as one of the biggest reasons why the sport was voted off the programme by the IOC at its Session in Singapore in 2005.
Baseball and softball, which was also axed from the Olympic programme after Beijing 2008, are one of seven sports hoping to gain a spot in the 2020.
But they, along with climbing, karate, roller sports, squash, wakeboarding and wushu, face stiff competition from wrestling, which is trying to keep its place having been controversially recommended for removal from the list of core sports after Rio 2016.
"We share a vision of giving every boy and girl in the world a chance to play this great game -and to harness the power of the Olympic Games to inspire them to take up our sport and strive for excellence," said Fraccari.
"Commissioner Selig is on record in support of baseball and softball together in the Olympic Games, and we fully support the Commissioner's commitment to MLB's loyal fans.
"As the globalisation trends of baseball and softball continue to accelerate, we are convinced that baseball and softball, through their excitement, universality and popularity, will add enormous appeal and value to the 2020 Olympic Games and those beyond - as such, we look forward to making that case to the Olympic Family."
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