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The head of the Major League Baseball Players Association says it will be difficult for big leaguers to participate at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Baseball returns to Olympics after a 12-year absence for the Tokyo Games, which are scheduled for July 24-Aug. 9 – in the middle of baseball’s season.
“There are challenges with the schedule, and there are challenges with major leaguers being involved,” Clark said Thursday at the Baltimore Orioles’ spring training camp.
In 2008, players on major league 25-man rosters and disabled lists on June 26 were ineligible to play. The US roster included 17 players from Triple-A, seven from Double-A and college pitcher Stephen Strasburg, now with the Washington Nationals.
“It doesn’t mean that we are not continuing to have dialogue. We have going back. We will going forward. Where we land, I don’t know,” Clark said. “One of the things we were able to discuss during this round of bargaining were some additional flexibility in the schedule moving forward. Maybe there are some opportunities for a broader discussion than there have been a year ago. We’ll have to wait and see. We haven’t had that kind of substantive sit down yet.”
Many players are preparing for the fourth edition of World Baseball Classic, an international tournament launched in 2006 that is co-owned by Major League Baseball and the union. Clark hopes to see a fifth edition in 2021.
“I see no reason at this point why it wouldn’t,” he said. “I’m hopeful it continues, understanding that the world we live in four years from now may be different from the one we’re in now.”
On another international topic, Clark felt Tampa Bay’s exhibition at Havana last spring was a positive experience. The Rays were the first major league team to play in Cuba since Baltimore in 1999.
“The feedback that we got was that it was an experience that they’re not soon going to forget,” he said. “We also appreciate that the world we were in last year is a little bit different now. We have to determine what any or all international travel looks like as a result. There’s no doubt the respect for the game internationally is growing and trying to do our best to broaden our footprint makes sense as well,” Clark said.
The union has agreed to pitchless intentional walks this season and talks are ongoing on video review regulations.
“Instant replay is another one that some of the details we’re still working through,” Clark said. “We’re continuing to have dialogue and we’ll continue to have open dialogue on some of the things in the near term as well as some things in the long term.”
Clark believes players are sensitive to MLB’s concern that games are too long – the average for nine-inning games was 3 hours last year.
“I think there’s an understanding as to game length, and there’s an appreciation for game pace,” Clark said. “In our game more than any other, it’s hard to dictate a particular game-time ending.”