Play ball

 Baseball fan Risa Abe fist-pumps with a model figure outside the Tokyo Dome.

Yomiuri Giants fan Risa Abe fist-pumps with a model figure outside the Tokyo Dome. (Hironobu Itabashi photo)

Oct. 3, 2014

It was warm and sunny today outside the Tokyo Dome, perfect baseball weather, and Kashikawa Kazumi sat in the sun waiting for the start of a Yomiuri Giants open practice game at their home field.

The 75-year-old played baseball in junior high and high school, is a loyal Giants fans, and can’t understand why there’s even a debate about whether to include baseball in the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo.

“I never understood it,” he said through a translator. “It’s a sport everyone really likes.”

Baseball has been a part of the Olympics since the 1904 summer games in St. Louis as an exhibition/demonstration sport, and became a medal sport in 1992.

But in 2005, the International Olympic Committee annual meeting voted baseball and softball out of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the first time the Olympics called out a sport since polo was eliminated from the 1936 Olympics. In 2009, the IOC again voted to exclude baseball in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Part of the reason may be that baseball and softball are rooted in American tradition, and not at all popular in many other parts of the world.

But in Japan, where baseball is hugely popular, the idea of hosting the 2020 summer Olympics without baseball is unthinkable, and polls show the Japanese strongly hope that the IOC reverses past decisions.

“There are so many people playing baseball,” said former Little Leaguer Ogata Hitomi, 27, who traveled with friends from distant Sendai, Miyagi to watch her team practice (also speaking through a translator). “Why wouldn’t you let them play in the Olympics?”

Kashikawa Kazumi (Hironobu Itabashi photos)

Kashikawa Kazumi (Hironobu Itabashi photo)

One response to “Play ball

  1. Absolutely. The 2005 baseball ban was a swipe at George W. Bush, via American culture, and still remains a bit of a bugaboo with certain reflexive anti-Americans who might still have not gotten over the loss of their empires or something. The Japanese shouldn’t get caught in the middle of that spat…

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