Before the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, it was announced that Women’s Softball would not be in the games in London or Rio. This would be the first time in over 70 years that an Olympic sport would be removed from the games. But after numerous petitions and an outpouring of support from fans and players alike, the Olympic committee voted to reinstate softball for the Tokyo 2020 games.
Why Bring it Back Now?
The Japanese national team has been a long time rival of the United States national team. The teams are excited to face each other on the world stage especially after the 2008 games when Japan snapped the USA’s winning streak of three straight gold medals. This was an even bigger blow to the players knowing that they may never get the chance to earn Olympic gold again. But there was a shining light at the end of the tunnel for Team USA when Tokyo was announced as the backdrop of the 2020 Olympics. As Team USA softball reports, Japan has considered softball a part of its culture for years. But the setting isn’t the only factor playing into softball being back in the games.
Carol Bruggeman, Executive Director of the National Fastpitch Coaching Association, said “I believe the growth of travel ball and the sport of softball as a whole go hand-in-hand. College softball has become more visible in the last few years due to increased television and media coverage, the sport being back in the Olympics, college programs being added across the country and many other factors.”
According to Softball America during the 2016-2017 season, women’s college softball brought in $450 million dollars worth of revenue to ESPN. Not only did the 2016-2017 season produce more revenue than ever before, but the 2017 Women’s College World Series (WCWS) had more viewers than the average number of people watching Monday Night Baseball on the same network. With these numbers, it is hard for the Olympic committee to dispute the popularity of softball.
Who’s on the Roster?
If you have watched any college softball in the last twenty years you will recognize several of the faces on the USA national team as well as Team Mexico. Pitcher Cat Osterman, who won a gold medal in 2004 and a silver medal in 2008, will return to the games in search of redemption from 2008 games. Fellow 2008 teammate Monia Abbott will join Osterman as part of the USA pitching staff. 2019 NCAA National Champion Rachel Garcia will be making her first Olympic appearance, as well as college phenom Keilani Ricketts. Both women posted impressive records during their college records and will now continue their careers in hopes of Olympic gold. The rest of the team is comprised of several players fans will recognize from the Women’s College World Series over the years.
Arizona State University Superstar pitcher Dallas Escobedo will be appearing in the game. However, she will not be on Team USA but rather Team Mexico. Depending on the player’s family heritage they can qualify for teams other than the countries they currently live in.
The Fight Continues
Despite being voted into the 2020 games softball will not appear in the 2024 Olympic games in Paris. It is believed that the game is not popular enough in Europe for the committee to be swayed to reinstate softball permanently. This has baffled not only fans but players, as several tournaments have been held in Europe, including Paris, to help grow the sport within the last decade. This Olympics is an opportunity for all the softball teams to prove that softball is should be a permanent facet in the Olympic games and the future of softball as a whole. No pressure.
What Teams Will Be Competing?
— USA Softball Women's National Team 🇺🇸 (@USASoftballWNT) February 25, 2020
As the host country, Japan automatically qualifies for a chance at the gold. The USA qualified back in 2018 by winning the world championship against Japan. Team Mexico will also appear in the games. One more team from the Americas, one team from Europe-Africa zone, and one Asia-Oceania team are also eligible. In the past Australia and China have qualified and medaled in the Olympics for softball and are expected to qualify again for 2020.
Fans have the chance to see the national teams play on the Stand Beside Her Tour 2020 which is traveling the United States to get fans excited for what is to come this summer. Many of the games have sold out.