Baseball: New Zealand Baseball team given Olympic chance

By Dale Budge

Andrew Marck pitches Philippines during the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers. Photo / Getty Images
Andrew Marck pitches Philippines during the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers. Photo / Getty Images

Baseball New Zealand is licking its lips at the outside chance of sending a team to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

When it was announced that men's baseball and women's softball were returning to the Olympics there wasn't much fanfare in New Zealand as only six nations are likely to qualify and the Diamondblacks, despite big gains in recent years, are still ranked outside the top 20. But this week's visit from World Baseball Softball Confederation boss Riccardo Fraccari has the sport's brass dreaming of competing on the biggest stage.

"President Fraccari said there will be an Oceania representative at the Olympics," Baseball New Zealand chief executive Ryan Flynn tells herald.co.nz.

"What that would mean is a much clearer path for both baseball and women's softball - our women's softball team is ranked eighth in the world and they finished higher than Australia at the recent world cup.

"We know Asia has three top baseball countries and we know the Americas have a half dozen at a minimum that are very strong. Europe has a couple now and Australia has been as high as eight in the nine in the world.

"One of the reasons they won't let Australia move to Asia (like has happened with football and basketball recently) is because every region needs to be represented. There are five rings in the Olympic logo and Oceania is one of those rings and that is important for the Olympic movement.

"That means Australia is the main road block but if there is one main road block that is a strategy we can work on over time. We have three years to come up with a plan."

The opportunity to qualify for the Olympics is a lot easier if they only need to find a way past Australia. Our trans-Tasman neighbours won the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament in Sydney in February - beating out South Africa, the Philippines and New Zealand but the two nations never played each other in that tournament. While the Diamondblacks would be considered strong outsiders to beat a more experienced and deep Australian roster they at least find themselves in a situation of having to beat the likes of American Samoa and Guam to play Australia for an Olympic spot.

"It opens up a pathway and we know Oceania has a spot and we don't have to play like football does with the fifth best team in South America or the Middle East champ after we beat everyone in Oceania," Flynn explains.

"One big win; one good pitching performance and we can shock the world."
Flynn says the format of qualifying is yet to be confirmed but says they have plenty of time to plan their attack.

"November 2019 was the date being thrown around but I don't know what that would look like. Would it just be an Oceania Championship where everyone gets together and the winner goes to the Olympics? That would be fine by me."

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 22 Feb 2017 11:00:21 Processing Time: 31ms