IBAF president pitching for baseball
Schiller says using MLBers in medal rounds could help return
BEIJING -- By his own estimation, Harvey Schiller's big news came before he appeared in a news conference Wednesday afternoon at Wukesong Baseball Fields.
"Did you see me take BP?" asked the president of the International Baseball Federation and former United States Olympic Committee chief. "The big news is that I went 20 minutes in BP. With the people in the dugouts, broadcasters getting ready, I was the oldest guy out there. I leave it up to others to say how I did."
Darin Van Tassell, the IBAF competition director, was standing next to Schiller as he said that and interjected with exactly the right answer: "In the history of our Federation, we have never had a better hitter."
Schiller had plenty more to discuss on Wednesday, however. He said that the International Olympic Committee will consider adding as many as three sports for 2016. Baseball and softball, which will not be played at the 2012 Games in London, are among seven sports vying for entry or re-entry.
The subject of using Major League players in the Olympics was once again raised, with Schiller saying that Major Leaguers might be used for medal-round games if the sport is allowed back. This despite Major League Baseball's insistence that its regular season will not be shut down in any manner to facilitate Olympic play.
Schiller said using big-leaguers for only medal rounds would cause only a roughly three- to four-day disruption during the regular season. That is one of multiple scenarios being discussed, and it has been on a preliminary basis, he added.
"We don't have to shut down baseball to do it," Schiller said. "What we've heard from the players is they want to be in it."
The bring-back-baseball subject has been a frequent subject throughout the Games. Many top MLB executives have been in attendance, with vice president of business Tim Brosnan arriving on Monday and VP of baseball operations Jimmie Lee Solomon on Wednesday.
Gene Orza, chief operating officer of the MLB Players Association, has been a regular in the seats behind home plate at the Wukesong Baseball Fields. The subject came up during President Bush's visit with the U.S. and China teams last week. Though Bush has no vote on the matter and no influence on the IOC, he expressed confidence in baseball's return. "We'll get it back," he said to Schiller.
"In 1992, when baseball was added, there was no requirement to use Major League players," Schiller said. "Since 1992, baseball has moved from amateur athletes to professional athletes.
"You have to remember we are not just talking about [only] Major League Baseball in the USA, we're talking about professional baseball in Japan and other countries as well. And, of course, Cuba -- they have their best players here."
Schiller said baseball, softball, squash, karate and golf were represented at a news conference on Tuesday featuring representatives of sports that are trying to get onto the Olympic program for 2016. He said roller sports and rugby reps were not there but that they are the other two of the seven sports trying to get into those Olympics.
"Each of them is trying to tell its story," Schiller said of the sports at Tuesday's conference. "They're all good sports."
Schiller also said that he was "disappointed" by the Americans' physical play in their 9-0 rout of host China on Monday. He expressed regret over what has been a lingering issue -- the Americans' tactics in the China game, which received criticism, mostly in the U.S.
In the lopsided contest, two China catchers were bowled over in violent collisions at the plate, with the starting catcher being taken to a hospital. Matt LaPorta, the U.S. outfielder who knocked out the first catcher, was himself beaned two innings later and forced to miss the next two games due to a mild concussion. Nate Schierholtz took out the backup catcher, Yang Yang, an inning after LaPorta's collision, and explained afterward that no one would have reacted had the first baseman not cut off the center fielder's throw home.
Six batters were hit by pitches in that game, and three Chinese uniformed personnel were ejected. The U.S. team was ripped by multiple news outlets back in the States. A common complaint was that the Americans' aggressiveness was unnecessary and could hurt the sport's chances of returning to the Olympics.
"Even my wife called me. You're dealing with an emotional situation, involving young players. Thinking about it again, nobody would do it. I'm a little disappointed, but you have to learn. These players have to learn that you can't do that.
"Look at some of the other sports that are here. These people build up to competition not just for four years, but their whole life. That aggressive behavior is what some people want, so you can understand that. When I was at the Air Force Academy, one problem with some football players, that aggressiveness you want on the field worked when you were a cadet, on training missions, but doesn't work if you're beating up roommates."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.