July 8, 2005

Americans outraged by baseball, softball rejections

By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. reaction to the elimination of
baseball and softball from the Olympic agenda ranged on Friday
from disappointment to outrage.

"It was a bad call. Very disturbing," said Tommy Lasorda,
the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager who led the U.S. squad
to the gold medal in the 2000 Games in Sydney.

"I can't believe they would drop baseball and softball, two
very, very big sports that are played throughout the world,"
Lasorda told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I haven't heard
one reason why they are doing this."

The two sports failed to win a majority of votes in a
ballot of members at a meeting of the International Olympic
Committee in Singapore and became the first sports to be
eliminated from the Games in nearly 70 years.

Baseball and softball will remain on the agenda for the
2008 Games in Beijing but will not be part of the 2012 London
Olympics. The sports could be re-instated for the 2016 Games.

"We are shocked by the news softball has been taken off the
Olympic program in 2012," the Amateur Softball Association of
America said in a statement.

"The vote by the IOC Members is a crushing blow to the
millions of young women around the world who dream of taking
the field as Olympic athletes in our sport."

Softball, played by women only at the Olympics, became a
medal sport in 1996 and has been won all three times by the
United States.

"The decision just took my breath away," Lisa Fernandez, a
three-times gold medal-winning pitcher for the United States
told Reuters. "We proved as a sport we belong. They are
destroying the dreams of billions of women. Not millions.

Fernandez said 126 countries around the world played
fast-pitch softball.

"To say we're not represented world wide is a travesty,"
she said. "That is not what the Olympics stand for. They stand
for opportunity.

"At the highlight of our sport's growth, they take our legs
out from beneath us. There's no rhyme or reason. The future
could not have been brighter.

"We are not going to give up. We are going to fight. I hope
there's a glimmer of light to reevaluate us."

Lasorda said interest in baseball was expanding world wide
while softball participation "is growing by leaps and bounds."

"They play baseball in China, in Japan, Korea, Taiwan.
They're playing it in Europe, in the Latin countries. So what's
the reason to eliminate it?"

"I was there at the 2000 Olympics and I saw the attendance.
"Every time the games were played in baseball and softball it
was packed. What more do they want?"

"They're making a big mistake and we've got to do something
about it."

Cuban officials were similarly upset. With the exception of
2000, when the United States won the gold medal in Sydney, Cuba
have won the Olympic title each time the sport was introduced
to the Olympics in 1992.

"It is a very tough blow for us," an official told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta)