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Could Obama election help baseball in Olympics?

Nov. 06, 2008, 2:04 a.m. (ET)

DANA POINT, Calif.(AP) With Barack Obama in the White House, baseball officials think their sport could have a better chance of getting back into the Olympics.

“If the perception internationally of the United States improves by virtue of his election, then I think the U.S. stature in international sport of every type will be enhanced,” San Diego Padres chief executive officer Sandy Alderson said Wednesday at the MLB general managers' meetings. “I don't think the United States has the international stature in sport that it once had.”

Baseball was added as a demonstration sport in 1984 and 1988, then was a medal sport starting in 1992. The International Olympic Committee voted in July 2005 to drop baseball and softball following the 2008 Beijing Games. When a vote for reinstatement took place the following February, baseball lost 46-42 and softball failed 47-43.

At the time, International Softball Federation president Don Porter said: “I think anti-Americanism was a factor.” Softball was added for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

“I think clearly how the world looks at America is going to be different with Barack Obama in the White House,” Cleveland Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. “And that will be initial. And then how he leads and how he governs will determine how they look at us over a sustained period.”

The IOC will consider the program for the 2016 Games when it meets next October. Leaders of Chicago's bid to host that Olympics think Obama's election provides a boost.

“I think it's a great opportunity for us to get back in,” said Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner's office. “I don't know if the election in and of itself would do that. We've got some big problems.”

IOC officials were unhappy major league players were not allowed to compete in the Olympics. Because the Olympics are played during baseball's regular season, Solomon called it “a very difficult thing for us to contemplate.”

“I think what will help us get back in the Olympics is to get the IOC to understand that baseball is a global sport with significant appeal and that any other reservation about is a red herring,” Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer, said in a telephone interview from New York.

International Baseball Federation president Harvey Schiller is to make a presentation to the IOC on Nov. 14 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“President-elect Obama's interest in sports and specifically in baseball, combined with the efforts of other world leaders, is the kind of thing we need to return baseball to the Olympic program,” Schiller said from New York. “It's important that we have his support, but it's also important that we have the support of the many countries that participate in the game. It's clear we have to identify that it's a global sport, and not just a sport in the United States.”

Management and the players' association have been pushing for baseball's reinstatement.

“I think Senator Obama's election is an event of profound significance to a lot of people around the world, and I would be surprised if it was not received that way in Olympic circles, also,” union head Donald Fehr said by telephone from Los Angeles.