Baseball and softball made their returns to the Olympic Games at Tokyo 2020, with Japan winning both tournaments ©Getty Images

The "very successful" return of two of its disciplines to this summer's Olympic Games in Tokyo was one of the topics discussed at the latest World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Executive Board meeting, staged after the conclusion of its Under-23 Baseball World Cup in Mexico.

Baseball and softball tournaments featured at Tokyo 2020 for the first time since Beijing 2008, with hosts Japan winning gold in both.

At present, this is only a one-off return as neither baseball nor softball is on the programme for Paris 2024, but WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari told the virtual meeting he is hoping for it to feature at future editions of the Games, starting at Los Angeles 2028.

"The competition was very successful, all the games were extremely close and of a high level with lots of positive feedback," he said.

"I congratulate all the teams, as we showed our sport is a good fit for the Olympic Games.

"Tokyo 2020 showed that baseball and softball have all the requirements, not only to be in Los Angeles 2028 but to be a permanent fixture on the Olympic programme."

The global governing body was also thanked by Japanese members of the Executive Board in Taeko Utsugi, Hiromi Tokuda and Hiroko Yamada, who described the tournaments as "the best possible baseball and softball events during Tokyo 2020."

"On behalf of the Japan Softball Association, the Baseball Federation of Japan and tens of millions of baseball and softball fans in Japan, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of you," they added.

Riccardo Fraccari hopes baseball and softball can feature at Los Angeles 2028 and beyond ©Getty Images
Riccardo Fraccari hopes baseball and softball can feature at Los Angeles 2028 and beyond ©Getty Images

"In spite of the pandemic, you mustered all your powers to make baseball and softball two of the most successful events in the Tokyo Olympics.

"Our athletes put on an outstanding performance and demonstrated great value of our sports even without spectators.

"In the era when society is so divided, they showed us the essential values of our sports - passion, excitement, inspiration, unity, teamwork and mutual respect."

Fraccari fed back to members on his recent visit to the Nigerian capital Abuja for the 40th anniversary ceremony and 56th Ordinary Sessions Executive Committee meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), with the growth of baseball5 across the continent proving a major talking point.

"I would like to thank ANOCA President Mustapha Berraf and ANOCA secretary general Ahmed Abou Elgasim Hashim for inviting the WBSC to speak with the ANOCA family about Baseball5," Fraccari said.

"Africa welcomed the opportunity to embrace Baseball5 and use it as a tool to get kids and adults active.

"The WBSC’s goal is to have African teams competing at a high level when Baseball5 makes its Youth Olympic Games debut at Dakar 2026."

The potential to involve baseball5 in school programmes was discussed with OlympAfrica executive director Thieno Diack and Tegla Loroupe, who founded the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation.

Venezuela won the WBSC Under-23 Baseball World Cup final against hosts Mexico ©Getty Images
Venezuela won the WBSC Under-23 Baseball World Cup final against hosts Mexico ©Getty Images

The WBSC says the five-on-five, mixed-gender version of baseball helps increase accessibility to the game.

Baseball5 can be played on any surface, requiring only a rubber ball to play as hitting is done by hand, which also means no pitcher is required.

It was showcased at the fan park for this summer's Paralympic Games and included on the Olympic Virtual Series in June.

The U23 competition in Mexico, won by Venezuela at the expense of the hosts in the final, was the first World Cup to be staged by the WBSC since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first to feature seven-innings matches.

Fraccari felt this was a change that proved successful.

"This new regulation, which we introduced to provide even more dynamic games, worked well," he said.

"We saw plenty of action from the opening pitch, which could change the way international baseball is played going forward."

The meeting saw the Board approve updates to the WBSC statutes and code of divisions, primarily a new conflict of interest policy, that will now be discussed at the Extraordinary Congress on December 18 this year.