Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Bryce Harper says MLB should pause season for Olympics, wants to play in 2028: ‘Something you dream about’

MLB’s 2024 international schedule wraps up Sunday with the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies playing the second game of the two-game London Series at London Stadium (GameTracker). The Phillies, thanks in part to a Bryce Harper home run, picked up a 7-2 win in Saturday’s opener. Taijuan Walker and Jose Quintana are Sunday’s starting pitchers.

Prior to Saturday’s game, Harper expressed interest in playing in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Baseball and softball will return as Olympic sports in 2028 after being played on a trial basis in 2020 and not being played at 2012 and 2016. Harper wants MLB players in the Olympics come 2028. From USA Today:

“There’s nothing more worldwide than the Olympics,” Harper told reporters in London. “I watch the most random sports in the Olympics because it’s the Olympics, and that’s really cool. I love hockey. It’s one of my favorite sports to watch. To see (the NHL) take that three-week break and let those guys go play, that’s another big goal that we should have as Major League Baseball.

“I’ve talked to numerous people with MLB about it. I would love to be a part of that. We have the WBC, but it’s not the same. It’s not. The Olympics is something that you dream about playing in.”

Currently only amateurs and professional players not on the 40-man roster are allowed to participate in the Olympics. USA’s roster in 2020 featured minor-league journeymen, a few top prospects, and several unsigned free agent veterans. Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization halted their regular seasons so professionals could play in the 2020 Olympics. Japan beat USA in the gold medal game.

As Harper noted, the National Hockey League has paused its regular season and allowed players to participate in the Olympics in the past, though it has not done so in either of the last two Olympics because of insurance issues. In 2028, travel to Los Angeles would be easy for MLB players. The question is whether the league would pause the season for two weeks in July. The 2028 Olympics are scheduled for July 14-30.

Harper would be 35 come the 2028 Olympics. He committed to playing for USA in last spring’s World Baseball Classic, but had to withdraw after having Tommy John surgery in November 2022. As an amateur, Harper played on USA Baseball’s 16-and-under team in 2008 and 18-and-under team in 2009, and was the best player on the field in both tournaments.

Baseball was a full-time Olympic sport from 1992-2008. Cuba has won three gold medals (1992, 1996, 2004) and South Korea (2008), Japan (2020), and USA (2000) have one gold medal apiece. As a minor leaguer, former Milwaukee Brewers ace Ben Sheets threw a complete game shutout against heavily favored Cuba in the 2000 gold medal game.

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