Sadaharu Oh backs baseball, softball

TOKYO -- Japanese home run king Sadaharu Oh is going to bat for baseball and softball's bid to get back in the Olympics.

Baseball gained full medal status at the 1992 Barcelona Games and softball followed four years later in Atlanta. But both were dropped from the 2012 program in a 2005 vote by the IOC.

The two sports have merged into a single confederation as they compete against wrestling and squash for a single spot on the 2020 Olympic program.

The IOC will decide which sport gets back in next Sunday in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a day after choosing the host for the 2020 Olympics. Tokyo is bidding against Madrid and Istanbul.

"If Tokyo wins the honor to host the Olympic Games in 2020, I believe baseball and softball competitions will deliver the peak of Olympic sport," Oh said in a statement issued by the World Baseball Softball Confederation.

The biggest obstacle to the bid is its failure to guarantee the presence of Major League Baseball players. MLB commissioner Bud Selig has said the season won't be stopped to free players for the Olympics.

Japan sent its top professionals to the 2008 Beijing Games -- the last time baseball was in the Olympics -- and Oh called on all countries to send their best players.

"I believe every major league around the world should find a way to make its best players available for the Olympic Games" Oh said.

The 73-year-old Oh hit 868 home runs over a 22-year career with the Yomiuri Giants. He also holds the Japanese record of 55 homers in a single season.

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