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Former baseball, softball Olympians eager for sports to return at 2028 Los Angeles Games

Posted: 10:22 PM, Jul 06, 2024
Updated: 2024-07-08 08:35:00-04
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Monica Abbott Team USA portrait
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Monica Abbott Pleasant Lea Olympics
Lucy Sadie Pleasant Lea Monica Abbott Olympics
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Craig Wilson and Larry Bird
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Craig Wilson and Larry Bird in hands
Craig Wilson President George H.W. Bush and Barbara
Olympics Baseball Barcelona 1992

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Baseball and softball won’t be part of the Paris Olympics later this month. It marks the third time in the last four Summer Games that the sports will be absent.

That’s particularly troublesome for softball, according to two-time Olympic softball silver medalist Monica Abbott.

Monica Abbott softball Team USA
Monica Abbott is one of the greatest softball pitchers ever and makes no bones about the fact that the Olympics is the pinnacle of her sport.

“If you're a female athlete — and I think this goes pretty much across the board, no matter what sport you play, but especially in the sport of softball — the highest level that you can compete at in the sport of softball is the Olympic Games,” said Abbott, who settled in Lee’s Summit after retiring from softball. “It's not college, it's not the Women's College World Series, it's not the Pro League, it's not Athletes Unlimited — it is the Olympics. It's wearing ‘USA’ across your chest.”

It’s a disappointing circumstance for Abbott, who won Olympic silver medals at the 2008 Beijing and 2020 Tokyo Games, but also for former Kansas State baseball star and 1992 Olympian Craig Wilson.

RELATED | Larry Bird and '92 Olympics: Wilson recounts baseball experience

Among other issues, MLB’s refusal to allow the sport’s best players to compete led to baseball and softball being voted out of the Olympics 19 years ago — the first sports to be dropped since polo in 1936.

Softball was viewed as collateral damage in the feud between MLB and Olympic organizers, but it also took away a unique opportunity from generations of baseball players.

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“I always liked the amateur aspect of it,” Wilson said. “I wish they would bring that back but keep it more of that amateur type sport. Bring on the best players from the collegiate level and let them compete.”

Craig Wilson
Craig Wilson went on to play for the U.S. in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the first with baseball as an official medal sport.

The Olympic absence has been particularly challenging for the development of softball across the globe.

“It really hurt the sport of softball internationally, because when it's voted out, you lose funding,” Abbott said. “And you don't lose funding just in the United States. Funding gets redirected. It goes into other sports."

RELATED | Abbott delights Lee’s Summit students with medals, stories

Fortunately for those hoping to grow the sport, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The IOC announced in October 2023 that baseball and softball will return for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“It's been kind of an emotional journey to have it tug on your heart like — yes, we're in; no, you're not in; yes, you're in; no, you're not — so you really focus on watering the grass where you're at,” Abbott said. “Let's take care of the softball community where you're at and help that continue to grow and thrive — not only at the youth level or the collegiate level, but at the professional level.”

The IOC voted to bring back baseball and softball in 2028 along with cricket and lacrosse, while squash and flag football will make their Olympic debuts in Los Angeles.