The U.S. men's baseball team qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics thanks to some help from a former MLB star.
Todd Frazier, who played for the New York Mets and Chicago White Sox during his 10-year career in the major leagues, went 4-4 with a solo HR to lead the United States to a victory over Venezuela at the WBSC Americas Olympic Baseball Qualifier on Saturday.
With the win, the U.S. men will be part of the first Olympic baseball tournament since 2008. Baseball and softball were not part of the Olympic program during the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio Games. The International Olympic Committee voted baseball out after 2008, citing lack of MLB participation as one of the factors. But a rule change that allowed host nations to propose additional sports brought back baseball and softball, both popular in Japan, along with karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing.
While active MLB players won't participate this summer, the U.S. will still have some former major leaguers in Matt Kemp, Edwin Jackson and David Robertson, who all have made MLB All-Star teams in the last decade.
Joe Girardi was named manager of the U.S. men's team in 2019 but stepped down two months later to take the Philadelphia Phillies job. He was replaced by New York Yankees World Series champion Scott Brosius, who had the U.S. team on the brink of qualification in November 2019 before losing to Mexico in a winner-to-Tokyo game.
After the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the Tokyo Olympics, Mike Scioscia replaced Brosius as manager. Scioscia was a member of Tommy Lasorda's 1980's Los Angeles Dodgers team. Lasorda managed the only Olympic gold medal-winning U.S. baseball team in 2000.