Baseball should be in the Olympics

Ricardo Fraccari, president of the International Federation of the sport, explained his organization’s projections for the future at a press conference in Havana.

By LUIS LÓPEZ VIERA

Ricardo Fraccari (right) and Antonio Castro at the conference. Photo: Juan Moreno (Juventud Rebelde)

UNDOUBTEDLY, the president of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), Ricardo Fraccari is a great conversationalist. At least he was this Friday at Havana’s Latin American Stadium, where he held a press conference and answered all questions willingly.

The first part of the dialogue focused on alternatives to return to the Olympic program. “When I became president of the IBAF two years ago there was a great divorce between international baseball and the professional organizations. Today the picture is different, “admitted Fraccari.

“In the last Congress of the IBAF, held in December in Dallas, USA, all the professional organizations participated for the first time. As a result of the dialogue a new international tournament was approved that brings baseball up to the standards of other federations, “he said.

“For example, the World Baseball Classic (WBC) was an invitational tournament of 12 teams and became an event for which you have to classify, as befits a truly universal event. Now 28 countries are involved with their best players and the winner is the champion of the world,” he said.

Fraccari announced that the qualifying stage for the third World Classic will presumably be in November or December this year, but is not yet defined. “It depends a bit on the conformation of the four groups and countries seeking the venue,” he argued.

At another point, the president of the IBAF dispelled rumors about the marriage of baseball and softball in the same federation.

“We are working together to return to the Olympic program, but ultimately each Federation will maintain their identity. We are launching a single application, where baseball will be for the men and softball for the women, “said Fraccari.

“The battle for the return to the Olympic program will be tough, but we are on track. So far, all the professional organizations have confirmed their accord that their best players participate in the Games. We are also complying with the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency, “he said.

“For a long time, baseball was very reluctant to change its rules and became a very conservative sport. That’s also conspired against us a bit, “he said.

Commitment to the development of baseball

Similarly, Fraccari talked of development work at youth level and stressed that the professional and private organizations also pledged to work towards this goal.

Indeed, this year we will have the World Junior Championships, September 3 to 8, in Seoul, South Korea without the presence of Cuba, because it did not take part in the qualifying competition. According Fraccari, the Cuban team could only be included if a team were to drop out.

But after 2013 this event will become the World Baseball Classic for youth under 18 years, with the same format as the seniors.

Also, in August of this year will be the inaugural IBAF World Championship for youth under 15 years, in Chihuahua, Mexico. The initial call anticipates the presence of 16 teams.

There will also be the 5th Baseball World Cup for women, scheduled for August 10 to 19 in Edmonton, Canada.

Fraccari said the IBAF will also continue efforts to develop baseball in Africa, Europe and other areas like the Middle East.

Finally, the new IBAF plan for tournament highlights the Premier 12, starting in 2015 and held every four years. “The intention is for it to be a high level event, in which will be the best 12 teams in the World Baseball Classic,” confirmed Fraccari.

Tribute to Cuban baseball

Antonio Castro, third vice president of the IBAF, spoke about the importance of the 50 years of the national series of baseball in Cuba, whose anniversary we celebrate this Saturday.

The event brought out many anecdotes and recalled the time when Fraccari became the first referee from another nationality to participate in a National Series.

“I still have the Granma newspaper page where I interviewed,” said the president of the IBAF, revealing what Armandito had shouted from the steps of the Latino.

In addition, Antonio Castro announced that a group of individuals associated with baseball will receive the distinction of Ambassador of the IBAF to work on the promotion and dissemination of this sport. Among them is pitcher Carlos Yanez, who officially retires this Saturday after participating in 28 national series in Cuba.

Juventud Rebelde, Cuba

http://www.juventudrebelde.co.cu/sports/2012-01-14/baseball-should-be-in-the-olympic-program/

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