LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Some Major League Baseball owners are increasingly supportive of sending major leaguers to the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and a prominent executive’s presentation to the owners Wednesday outlined how it could actually happen — without greatly interrupting the regular season.
“There’s been a lot a lot of growing support, a lot of it based on the great success of the World Baseball Classic last year,” said a person who attended the presentation, which took place at MLB’s regularly scheduled owners’ meetings this week at a hotel outside of Orlando.
On Wednesday, Casey Wasserman — CEO of the Wasserman agency and the chairperson of a group that spearheaded the push to bring the Olympics to LA in 2028 — discussed a tournament with the owners that could include six or eight countries, three meeting attendees told The Athletic. Importantly, the tournament would be played on a condensed schedule: perhaps five or six days, so that the interruption to the regular season would be minimal, attendees said.
Two other attendees at the presentation were cautiously optimistic, wanting more information first. Owners and general managers have always been hesitant to send big leaguers to the Olympics because of injury risks and the overall impact on baseball’s calendar. But if baseball’s portion of the Olympics lasted no longer than a week, one of the large fears might be mitigated.
Baseball’s portion of the Olympics also would be scheduled around the time that MLB would normally be on its All-Star break, in mid-July. The 2028 Olympic games are scheduled to run from July 14 to July 30, and baseball could potentially become one of the events to kick off the games.
The usual All-Star Game might be canceled for one year, supplanted by the Olympics, which would serve a similar purpose — it’s a showcase of the best, but one that theoretically would be watched by many more people. Alternatively, it might be possible to hold an All-Star Game in conjunction with the Olympics, with both being played in Los Angeles. Even a Home Run Derby could potentially be worked in.
Were a reduction in regular-season games necessary, it would likely be a very small number of games — perhaps down to 158 games or so. The World Baseball Classic could also potentially be used as a qualifier for nations to make it into the Olympics. (The next WBC is scheduled for 2026.)
No decision is near, and a huge number of hurdles and logistics would need to be accounted for. Any plan would require the approval of the players’ union.
“The Players Association would be willing to listen to any formal proposal related to baseball and the Olympics,” said Tony Clark, Major League Baseball Players Association executive director, in a statement Wednesday.
Multiple attendees also said that Wasserman indicated various Olympic organizing committees and federations could cover at least some of the insurance necessary for players. A similar arrangement was recently reached with the NHL and its players.
Baseball, with or without major leaguers, is already going to be played at the 2028 games — a victory in itself for the sport, considering the International Olympic Committee dropped baseball following the 2004 games. But it’s often seemed virtually impossible that major leaguers would ever be able to participate.
Through the WBC, however, the sport has grown more used to the risks that come with additional games — and also seen some of the reward in marketing and fanfare.
The midseason timing also means players would be warmed up in a way they are not for the preseason WBC. On the other hand, the midseason timing also means that an injury could seem to more directly affect a pennant race, with just a couple of months remaining on the schedule.
Commissioner Rob Manfred is scheduled to talk to reporters on Thursday after the owners’ meetings conclude. During the World Series, he was cautious when talking about the possibility of major leaguers going to LA.
“I think everyone appreciates the challenges associated with major-league players playing in a tournament that is in the middle of our season,” Manfred said in October. “The integrity of that regular season, it’s an important thing for us.
“Having said that, Casey Wasserman has been supportive of getting baseball back in the Olympics, which we appreciate. We think it’s a great thing. And we will continue to listen as to whether there’s some arrangement that could be worked out. And I’m not saying one word about major-league players — some arrangement that could be worked out to make it the best possible tournament.”
(Photo of players shaking hands after the gold medal game at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: Koji Watanabe / Getty Images)