By Tom Degun

Womens baseballApril 3 - Women's baseball will make its first ever appearance at the Pan American Games at Toronto 2015, while men's softball will return to the competition for the first time in 12 years.

The historic announcement means that women's baseball will actually be making its first ever appearance at an international multi-sport event as it joins men's baseball, which has appeared on the Pan American Games sports programme at every edition of the event since it began in Buenos Aires in 1951.

Men's softball last appeared at the 2003 Pan American Games in Santo Domingo, when the winners were Canada, who beat the United States in the final for the seventh consecutive time.

Both men's and women's softball joined the Pan American Games in San Juan in 1979 but the men's event was dropped after 2003 when the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO) decided to eliminate the majority of non-Olympic Sports from the Games.

But despite the removal on men's softball, the women's game remained on the programme and featured in Rio in 2007 and in Guadalajara in 2011, where America won gold on both occasions, despite having been dropped from the Olympic programme after Beijing 2008.

Both the men's and women's baseball and softball competitions will be held at the Ajax Pan Am Ballpark, which has not yet been built.

"We're proud the Toronto 2015 Games are establishing true equity for men and women in both of these sports, which are phenomenally popular in the Americas and the Caribbean," said Toronto 2015 chief executive Ian Troop.

"Ajax will welcome many of the best players and teams in the world from the 41 participating Pan American countries, as well as up to 175,000 spectators.

"We expect incredible fan support here in the stands."
AjaxSportsplexThe new Ajax Pan Am Ballpark that will host baseball and softball at Toronto 2015 will be built at the existing Ajax Sportsplex

In order to host the event, Toronto 2015 is turning two current soccer fields into a Games-time baseball diamond for training purposes and rebuilding an adjacent one to meet the most up-to-date International Baseball Federation (IBAF) standards.

Ajax's four pinwheel fields will host softball training and competitions and also receive upgrades to meet International Softball Federation (ISF) requirements.

"Our Government is proud to support the building of the Ajax Pan Am Ballpark, a world-class baseball and softball facility where we will see men and women compete in both baseball and softball for the first time at the 2015 Pan American Games," said Canada's Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal.

"As a result of our Government's contribution to the Games, our talented athletes will have the opportunity to compete in state-of-the-art facilities when we take on the Americas in 2015."

The overall project cost for the project are anticipated to come in at $9 million (£6 million/€7 million) with construction will start this summer after Toronto 2015 issue a request for proposals to award the construction contract for the ballpark.

"Ajax is honoured to make Pan Am Games history as the place where the first gold medal is awarded in women's baseball," said Ajax Mayor Steve Parish.

"Baseball and softball have a long history in Ajax.

"These renovations will help the residents of our growing town continue to excel in these sports and attract even more prestigious competitions as a legacy of the Games."

The announcement is also a boost for the joint baseball/softball bid to join the 2020 Olympic Games.

The IBAF and ISF have formed the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) together as they bid to get men's baseball and women's baseball back on the Olympic programme after they were both removed drom the Games following Beijing 2008.

The combined baseball/softball bid is up against climbing, karate, roller sport, squash, wakeboard, wrestling and wushu with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) set to decide which sport will be included at the 2020 Olympics at their Session in Buenos Aires this September.

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August 2012: Ajax to host baseball and softball at Toronto 2015