There won’t be any dingers at the Paris Olympics this summer. But that will change in 2028, and MLB stars could be included.
A group of MLB team owners are “increasingly supportive of sending major leaguers to the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles,” The Athletic’s Evan Drillich reported on Wednesday.
While player approval will need to be approved by the MLBPA, backing from team owners will be crucial in the attempt to bring MLB stars to the games.
Baseball has a long history with the Olympics. Initially being included solely as a demonstration sport, it gained full inclusion status in 1992. Baseball is set to return in 2028 after making its most recent appearance at the Tokyo Olympics 2021.
MLB stars were barred from the Tokyo Games, which saw former MLB players and rising stars win silver for the United States after losing to Japan in a 2-0 pitching battle.
The issue came down to MLB team owners and their unwillingness to pause the season. To prevent participation from major-leaguers in 2020, MLB, the MLBPA and the International Baseball Federation adopted a rule allowing players in MLB organizations not on the 40-man roster to be eligible for the Games. It allowed prospects to play, as long as they weren’t on the 40-man roster.
On the other hand, Japan’s top baseball circuit (Nippon Professional Baseball) shut down for two weeks to accommodate the games. Other sports have amended their schedules for international competitions as well. The NHL did it in 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. Its players will return to the Games in 2026 and 2030. The WNBA has been represented at the Olympics every year since 2000.
MLB has never made those accommodations, but it might not have to.
The Athletic’s report comes after Casey Wasserman, who spearheaded Los Angeles’ bid for the Olympics, made a presentation to owners at the league’s owners’ meetings near Orlando, Florida this week. The Wasserman Media Group chairperson reportedly pitched a tournament structure that would have a “minimal” impact on MLB’s 2028 regular season.
Wasserman floated the idea of a “condensed schedule” that would occur over “perhaps five or six days” and include “six or eight countries.”
With the 2028 Olympics set to take place domestically, it was reportedly proposed that the baseball portion of the Games take place near MLB’s All-Star break for schedule cohesion. The Games are slated for July 14 to July 30, and the All-Star Game always occurs in mid-July.
Drellich reported that team owners were presented with the idea of the All-Star Game even being canceled for one year in light of the Olympics. He added that no decisions have been made and there are multiple logistical obstacles to overcome.
MLB stands to benefit from exposure to a larger audience, which could be a motivation behind this year’s push. It has already seen interest from fans in global competition, as the 2023 World Baseball Classic garnered averaged a record 4.97 million viewers and set records for attendance and merchandise sales.