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  • Olympics Warm Up: Premier 12 Baseball


    (ATR) World baseball leaders want to return the Premier 12 to Tokyo ahead of the 2020 Olympics.

    The Premier 12 is a creation of the WBSC to boost the international profile of baseball. (Getty)
    South Korea won the gold medal Nov. 21 with a solid thumping of number-one seed USA, 8-0. The finale, game 38 of the two-week tournament, was played at Tokyo Dome, which hosted the final four games. Round robin and quarterfinal games were hosted in Chinese Taipei.

    The Premier 12 is a creation of the World Baseball Softball Confederation to boost the international profile of baseball. The WBSC seeks a permanent return of the sport to the Olympic program. It’s one of five sports that are expected to be confirmed next year for a spot on the program for the Tokyo Olympics, but just for those games.

    Opening Nov. 8 at the Sapporo Dome, Japan vs. Korea, the Premier 12 action moved to Taipei for group play and quarter final games. Cuba, Canada and Dominican Republic were among the top seeded teams eliminated along the way.

    The Premier 12 consisted of the dozen highest-ranked countries in international baseball. No teams from Africa or Oceania qualified.

    Players came from various national professional leagues, including AAA level players from the U.S. Three members of the U.S. team had to drop out in the early stage of the tournament when they were named to the 40-man rosters of their Major League Baseball teams.

    The tournament offered a $3.8 million prize purse with $1 million for the winning side.

    The Confederation believes the new event is on a firm financial footing with rights fees of $25 million paid primarily by Asian broadcasters. 

    Games which featured home town teams drew respectable crowds. Japan’s two games at the Tokyo Dome, including the bronze medal, were near sellouts. But the semi final between the US and Mexico attracted nearly 1000 spectators in the 46,000 seat dome. Average attendance across 38 games is reported at 6200, with some games drawing just a few hundred spectators.

    The WBSC has signaled its intent to stage the next edition of the Premier 12 in Japan in 2019. Coming one year before the Olympics, the event would serve as a test for 2020, assuming baseball is approved for the Tokyo program.

    In a move to bolster the standing of the WBSC within the IOC, Willi Kaltschmitt, IOC member in Guatemala,
    Willi Kaltschmitt takes oath as WBSC executive committee member
    was named a member of the confederation executive committee. He takes a seat held by Reynaldo Gonzalez, the Cuban IOC member who died earlier this year. The confederation executive welcomed Kaltschmitt when it met in Tokyo last week.

    One major issue for the WBSC involving the Tokyo Olympics is whether an eight team field is possible for 2020. To keep a lid on the number of athletes and officials, Tokyo organizers are proposing a six team tournament, The WSBC may offer to drop the team size of 24 to make room for two more countries.

    Click here for ATR's on-the-scene photos of the inaugural Premier12 baseball tournament.

    Written and reported in Tokyo by Ed Hula and Hironori Hashimoto .

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