WBSC launches new rules to boost Olympic appeal of baseball

The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) has introduced a number of new rules to baseball in a move designed to make the game faster and appeal to a younger audience ahead of its return to the Olympic Games programme.

The WBSC has approved the review of a strict 12-second time limit between pitches, with testing and implementation to start at youth events and Women’s Baseball World Cups. An intentional walk rule has also been approved, ensuring managers will only have to signal to umpires to issue an intentional walk.

Additionally, the WBSC is to test a time limit of 90 seconds between (half) innings, with this rule to be under review at the Women’s Baseball World Cup in Viera, Florida, which runs from August 22-31. All pending changes would be included in forthcoming Baseball World Cup hosting agreements, the WBSC said.

The WBSC Executive Board will be analysing other ways to improve the tempo of baseball and reduce non-action sequences, which the confederation said will heighten its appeal to audiences, broadcasters, hosts, event organisers and players.

Baseball and softball will be reintroduced to the summer Olympics at the Tokyo 2020 Games. The two sports have not been contested at the Olympics since Beijing 2008 and WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari said the latest rule changes would help secure baseball’s long-term future at the Games, with a bid currently being drawn up for Paris 2024.

Fraccari (pictured) said: “Today marks a clear and modern direction for baseball and softball to modernise and evolve into not only a major global sport but also a permanent Olympic sport following our historic return at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

“These new measures to increase the action and speed of the game will help attract and retain the attention of new audiences and athletes around the world, particularly young people, while providing a model for national federations and leagues to follow.

“More study and action in this direction will come, including the review of reducing national team rosters sizes and athlete-quotas, which will streamline hosting Baseball and Softball World Cups and also make our sport more attractive and sustainable within the Olympic and Paris 2024 context.”

The rule changes represent the WBSC’s latest move to appeal to wider audiences, and come after the confederation in March approved the formation of its new Baseball5 discipline. Baseball5 serves as the WBSC’s third official discipline and the body hopes the move will allow it to explore opportunities for development surrounding the format, which features five-inning games with five players on each team.