DENVER -- Wednesday brought a small but significant victory for baseball fans when the International Olympic Committee announced baseball is among three finalists for the one sport that will be either introduced or returned at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Baseball and softball -- which both made their final Olympic appearance at the Beijing Games -- are together vying for a return to the international stage in seven years. The sports are making a joint bid to rejoin Olympic play. Other sports being considered are wrestling and squash.
One of the 24 members of the United States' last Olympic squad in 2008 was Rockies center fielder Dexter Fowler. After knocking in two runs and collecting seven hits for Team USA, he went on to make his big league debut just weeks after returning from Beijing.
"It was awesome," Fowler said. "Playing for your country and to be out there representing your country. We ended up getting a bronze medal, which was awesome."
Though Major League stars usually can't participate in the Summer Games because they take place during one of the most important stretches of the season. It gives Minor League and college stars the chance to see how their game stacks up against top international competition.
What separates baseball from other sports, in Fowler's eyes, is the international appeal of a game with deep roots not just in the Caribbean and South America but also across Asia.
As a 22-year-old Minor Leaguer, Fowler cherished the opportunity to participate in the opening ceremony and meet other athletes representing the red, white and blue. It is something he hopes future ballplayers have the chance to experience.
"It's one of America's sports, and it's getting to be huge," Fowler said. "You got the World Baseball Classic and all that now, which is cool, but I think [baseball] should be in the Olympics."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less