Softball followers have a good time the game’s return to the Games after 13 years, however its place is unsure.

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When the primary pitch was thrown in a sport between Australia and Japan on Wednesday morning, softball followers all over the world celebrated the return of their sport to the Olympic stage after a 13-year absence.

“We ARE back … SOFTBALL is back in the Olympics!” Natasha Watley, a two-time U.S. Olympic softball participant and a gold medalist in 2004, tweeted earlier than the sport. “I’ll be glued to the tv for the next week!”

The sport, which Japan gained 8-1, was the primary contest forward of the opening ceremony and certainly one of a number of softball video games and soccer matches scheduled earlier than the official begin. It started at Eight p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, with a sport between the U.S. and Italy scheduled to observe at 11 p.m. and one between Mexico and Canada set for two a.m. Eastern on Wednesday.

The video games will likely be broadcast on NBC Sports. (The video games will happen on Wednesday however will seem on U.S. tv beginning on Tuesday night time due to the 13-hour time distinction.)

Among those that watching have been the previous U.S. pitcher and Olympic gold and silver medalist Jennie Finch and her 8-year-old daughter Paisley. It was the primary time her daughter, who additionally performs softball, would see her sport represented on the world’s greatest stage.

“I’m so excited for our sport and our game and the platform it has to be back in the Olympics,” Finch mentioned earlier than the sport, including that she was “excited for the athletes especially.”

Softball first grew to become an Olympic sport in 1996, and it appeared in every summer season Games by way of these in 2008 in Beijing, after which it was dropped.

“For it to be taken away, it was like, how can we go back 60 years?” Finch recalled pondering on the time. “We’ve worked so hard to get our sport to where it is.”

But starting with the Tokyo Games, every Olympic host can suggest including sports activities with nationwide enchantment. Softball, together with baseball, each of that are standard in Japan, have been authorised for competitors in Tokyo.

The U.S. group, which captured three consecutive Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004 and a silver medal on the 2008 Games after falling to Japan, will make its fifth Olympic look in Tokyo. Cat Osterman, who was on the final two U.S. groups, is on this yr’s roster at age 38.

Still, there was some dissatisfaction throughout social media that the sport was being performed on a baseball discipline somewhat than a softball discipline, which might be smaller with an infield fully composed of dust, somewhat than a mixture of dust and grass.

In each the 2004 Athens Games and the 2008 Beijing Games, the host cities constructed softball fields as a part of their Olympics infrastructure.

“I don’t care what the field looks like, we’re happy it’s back & we’ve been waiting a very long time,” Danielle O’Toole Trejo, who performs for Mexico’s nationwide group and can also be a participant in Athletes Unlimited, wrote on Twitter. “Our play WILL NOT change. We’re GOOD enough to adapt.”

The sport’s Olympic return, nonetheless, is bittersweet. There is no assure that softball will likely be featured in one other Games.

“Our sport needs this,” Finch mentioned. “It’s crucial for our sport globally to be in the Olympic Games and have our presence and have the platform to showcase how great of a game it is.”


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