Feature | Baseball

Olympic baseball at Tokyo 2020: Top five things to know

Baseball makes its return to the Olympics at the Tokyo 2020 Games this summer in 2021. Here's all the information you need.

By ZK Goh ·

After an absence of 13 years, the sport of baseball will make its Olympic Games return this summer in 2021 at Tokyo 2020.

With host country Japan being a baseball-mad nation, it is sure to be one of the sports that will attract the attention from home fans.

But which are the teams to watch for? Where will games take place? Here is our guide to the top things to know about Olympic baseball.

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Top Olympic baseball teams at Tokyo 2020

Just six teams will compete in the baseball competition in Tokyo, down from eight at the sport's last appearance on the Olympic programme at Beijing 2008.

To date, four of the six teams that will compete are known – Japan, Israel, Mexico, and South Korea. While Major League Baseball-affiliated players may only play in the Olympics if they are not on their MLB team's active roster, Japan and South Korea will be able to call on their top domestic-based players from Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korean Baseball Organization.

Two qualifying tournaments remain to be played, with big names like the United States, three-time gold medallists Cuba, and European powerhouses Netherlands yet to secure their places.

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Olympic baseball schedule at Tokyo 2020

Competition runs from 28 July to 7 August 2021, with the group stage lasting four days and the elimination round beginning on 1 August.

All times are Japan Standard Time (UTC +9 hours)

Wed 28 July 12:00 - 15:00

  • Baseball Opening Round

Thu 29 July 19:00 - 22:00

  • Baseball Opening Round

Fri 30 July 12:00 - 15:00 / 19:00 - 22:00

  • Baseball Opening Round
  • Baseball Opening Round

Sat 31 July 12:00 - 15:00 / 19:00 - 22:00

  • Baseball Opening Round
  • Baseball Opening Round

Sun 1 August 12:00 - 15:00 / 19:00 - 22:00

  • Baseball Knockout stage (#1)
  • Baseball Knockout stage (#2)

Mon 2 August 12:00 - 15:00 / 19:00 - 22:00

  • Baseball Knockout stage (#3)
  • Baseball Knockout stage (#4)

Tue 3 August 19:00 - 22:00

  • Baseball Knockout stage (#5)

Wed 4 August 12:00 - 15:00 / 19:00 - 22:00

  • Baseball Knockout stage (#6)
  • Baseball Semifinal (#7)

Thu 5 August 19:00 - 22:00

  • Baseball Semifinal (#8)

Sat 7 August 12:00 - 15:00 / 19:00 - 22:30

  • Baseball Bronze Medal Game (#9)
  • Baseball Gold Medal Game (#10)
  • Baseball Victory Ceremony

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Olympic baseball venues at Tokyo 2020

Games will be played in two zones – one in Yokohama, south of Tokyo on the Tokyo Bay, and the other in Fukushima Prefecture.

The Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, which can hold 30,000 people, will host the opening game of the tournament on 28 July.

All remaining games will take place at the 34,000-capacity Yokohama Stadium, home to the Yokohama Baystars of NPB.

Olympic baseball competition format at Tokyo 2020

A complicated tournament structure is in place for baseball at Tokyo 2020. The six teams will be drawn into two groups of three, each playing two games. However, none of the teams will be eliminated after the round-robin stage.

In the first knockout round, the two second-placed teams and the two third-placed teams face each other. (The two group winners move straight to the second knockout round.) The losers from each of those games will face each other in an elimination game.

From that point forward, all games up to and including the bronze medal match will be played in a double elimination knockout format, meaning teams must lose twice to be eliminated from the tournament. The gold medal game will be single elimination.

The World Baseball Softball Confederation's mercy rule, which ends a game after at least six and a half innings if one team is up by 10 or more runs, will be in effect.

The competition format for baseball at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Diagram: Tokyo 2020)

Olympic baseball history

Various Olympic baseball demonstration and exhibition games were held intermittently from St Louis 1904 through Seoul 1988, before it was formally introduced as a medal event at Barcelona 1992.

Five tournaments were held until Beijing 2008 before the sport was voted off the Olympic programme ahead of the London 2012 Games. With MLB not releasing its best players for the tournament, Cuba dominated proceedings, reaching the final in all five editions, winning three (1992, 1996, 2004).

The United States, managed by the legendary late Tommy Lasorda, rode a shutout pitching performance by Ben Sheets to defeat the Cubans in the 2000 final; South Korea won the most recent gold medal in Beijing with Ryu Hyun-jin on the mound. Both Sheets and Ryu went on to become established MLB pitchers.

Lasorda, who died in January 2021, ranked the Olympic championship higher than either of his two World Series triumphs with the Dodgers.

"We came for the gold and we got it," he said.

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