While Philadelphia Phillies superstar Bryce Harper is not playing for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, he is still a fan of the tournament.
However, as good as the WBC has been at spreading baseball throughout the world, Harper would like to see things the way they used to be – with baseball being played at the Olympics.
He told the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“I’ve been a huge advocate of baseball getting back in the Olympics.”
Baseball traces its Olympic roots back to 1904, when it first debuted at the St. Louis Games as an exhibition. It continued as an exhibition sport at the Olympics off and on from 1912 through 1988, before it became an official Olympic sport in the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Baseball continued to be an official Summer Olympics sport through the 2008 Beijing Games, after which it was dropped again. It returned once more for the 2020 Tokyo Games, but will not be included in the 2024 Paris Games.
While baseball is expected to be included in the 2028 Los Angeles Games, there is still no long-term commitment to the sport at the Olympic level. The problem is, the Summer Olympics take place in the middle of the baseball season for most leagues in the world and creates far more of a logistical nightmare than the WBC, which takes place during spring training.
Bryce Harper would like to see MLB, and possibly other leagues, take an Olympic break so that the best players from around the world could compete for a gold medal. He told the Inquirer:
“It’d be so much fun to have that and have the game and see that in the Olympics and have the best players in the world doing it.”
Bryce Harper admits Olympic baseball is a challenge
Bryce Harper said that Olympic baseball as a long-term tournament is likely the stuff of dreams. If many of the world’s best pitchers won’t compete in the WBC during spring training, how many will come out for an Olympic appearance with their teams possibly in the middle of a pennant chase?
Harper said that there is no easy solution, telling the Inquirer:
“That’s the toughest component, really trying to get guys and their organizations to let them do it. Even if you try to go with young minor league guys, it’s really tough for organizations to be like, ‘Hey, you’re our top dog. Go ahead and go pitch.’
“And then Wheels (Zack Weeler) and Noles (Aaron Nola), guys like that, you think about your free-agent years, you think about not being insured. It gets to the point where it’s like, ‘Man, it isn’t worth it for me and my family to do this.’ At the end of the day, guys are going to make their own decisions.”