TOKYO – It’s been almost 13 years since the United States played a softball game at the Olympics, 13 years after a devastating loss to Japan deprived the Americans of their fourth straight gold in a sport they have long dominated.
Since that sad day of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, there has been nothing but, well, nothing, as softball was excluded from the Olympics in a colossal mistake by the extremely disconnected and out of touch International Olympic Committee. the Games went on without him.
But when Tokyo won the 2020 Olympics it brought softball back right away, and on Wednesday afternoon at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium the Americans were back with him, beating Italy, 2-0, behind the throw at a 38-year-old shot. superstar Cat Osterman, who came out of retirement for another shot at the Olympics.
Osterman, who won a gold in 2004 and a silver in 2008 with the United States, pitched six stellar innings, striking out nine on strikes while he faced just three. hitters above the minimum. Fellow veteran outstanding pitcher Monica Abbott, 35, a member of the 2008 Olympic team, came in seventh and retired the side to complete the shutout victory.
Fittingly, Michelle Moultrie’s single led Valerie Arioto to the first race in the United States. Moultrie and Arioto have been members of the United States National Softball Team for 10 years, putting their heart and soul into the team even when there was no guarantee they would ever attend any other Games. Olympic.
OLYMPIC GAMES BULLETIN:Sign up now to receive Team USA news delivered to your inbox
OLYMPIC GAMES TEXT UPDATES:Text us Tokyo Olympics
The match was played in an empty and cavernous 30,000-seat stadium, foreshadowing the unhappy look of these pandemic Olympic Games in which spectators are not allowed.
But the site was symbolic. Fukushima was chosen to host the first two rounds of the softball tournament and a baseball game to honor the region’s recovery from the March 2011 nuclear disaster, caused by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Earlier in the stadium, host Japan beat Australia, 8-1, to kick off the Olympics to their unofficial start more than two days before the opening ceremony.
The first two games of these Olympics were a fitting tribute to the perseverance of softball players and their sport, a hugely popular television product that received such a crude deal from the IOC but still had the patience and will to return eventually. .
Wanting to get rid of baseball because it was loaded with steroids and would never be able to send its best players to the Summer Olympics, the IOC conducted a secret ballot in 2005 and eliminated softball as well.
The decision was ridiculous; for years, the IOC had strived to integrate more women’s sports in order to reduce the gender gap in participation in the Games – then it eliminated a women’s sport.
It has always been thought that some members of the Eurocentric organization, the club of old people par excellence, did not know the difference between baseball and softball and ended up getting rid of both.
Thanks to Japan’s love for both sports, they will once again have their day at the Olympics. Unfortunately, this could be fleeting; Paris is not expected to include softball and baseball in 2024.
But, four years later, 2028 host Los Angeles likely will, ensuring that softball and baseball’s unusual Olympic journey continues.