Why Don’t MLB Players Play in the Olympics? – 4 Reasons

A. Coatess

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A. Coatess



Sean Hunter

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why don't mlb players play in the olympics

Not seeing your favorite MLB marquees like Aaron Judge, Freddie Freeman, or Paul Goldschmidt during the Olympics Baseball can be frustrating, especially if you’re an avid baseball fan. Perhaps, you’ve lost interest in watching the games because the superstars aren’t there.

Allowing them to play would practically cinch victory. So why don’t MLB players play in the Olympics? To shed light on this query, we compiled the different reasons for their non-participation and the possible remedies that can be done.

History of Baseball Players in the Olympics


Are MLB players allowed in the olympics? Unfortunately, no. Baseball has an on-and-off relationship with the Olympics.

The first recorded appearance of Olympic baseball was at 1904 St. Louis Game. Baseball was not an official game of the Olympics for a long time but only an exhibition game, mainly to stir up interest from the spectators. In 1988, it was called a demonstration sport during the Seoul games.

In 1992 and 1996, only male amateurs, particularly collegiate players, were allowed to play. In 2000, professional players were admitted, but MLB players were refused participation.

From 2000 to 2008, MLB players were still absent from the games, eventually leading to baseball’s exclusion from the Olympics program.

As of this writing, the US Baseball Team won only one gold medal in 2000.

Although baseball was reinstated in the 2020 Summer Olympics, MLB players weren’t allowed to play. In 2024, baseball is out of the Olympics program but is expected to return at the 2028 Summer Games.

What Causes MLB Not Participating in the Olympics

You might think refusing MLB players to play in the Olympics is a travesty. Many MLB players have bellyached their disappointment for being barred from the Olympics since they may not become great major league players. Playing in the Olympics is the only platform to reach the apex of their careers.

Many fans are making a fuss about this issue. But don’t just jump on the bandwagon yet, because there are plausible reasons why MLB players can’t play in the Olympics. Here they are.

1. Conflict in Schedule

The Olympics are held every four years, from July to August. The second half of the MLB season starts at the end of July and until early August. This means there is an overlap in the schedule between the Olympics and MLB season.

The trade deadline for moving players usually happens during the first week of August. Pulling out the big leaguers for three weeks so they can participate in the Olympics is something other than what MLB owners are willing to do at such a crucial time.

2. Player Safety


Like many other sports, baseball games can be potentially dangerous, and players can get injured anytime. Sending the creme de la creme players to the Olympics is a risk that MLB owners aren’t willing to take. They could lose millions if their best players sustain severe injuries and can’t return to the field.

2. Money

While it’s common sense to send marquee players to the Olympics for promotional purposes, MLB owners could lose revenues when their all-star prayers are not on the MLB season field, or they are badly injured at the Olympics.

Shutting down big leagues for three weeks or taking out a few marquee guys to play the Olympics could mean losing a lot of profits. Remember, revenues help pay those star players. It’s a tough call, but money rules at the end of the day.

3. Commitment to Other International Tournaments


Aside from the Olympics, professional baseball players play at the World Series, Caribbean Series, World Baseball Classic, and Baseball World Cup.

Professional players highly preferred the World Baseball Classic, where a winner is hailed as the world champion.

4. Disqualification of Players on the 40-Man Roster


The 40-man Roster consists of active MLB players and Minor League players. Simply put, it comprises the best baseball players.

The International Baseball Federation, the MLBPA, and the MLB decided in 2020 that MLB players can play in the Olympics except those on the 40-man Roster.

Impact of Not Participating in the Olympics


Baseball is a famed sport known for reaping high TV ratings. What’s the impact of the absence of MLB players in the Olympics?

The absence of MLB players in the Olympics has dragged down the viewership and TV ratings. This means a substantial decline in revenues.

Since all-star players aren’t permitted to play, the Olympics Committee decided to remove baseball from the Olympics program.

Ways for MLB Players Playing in the Olympics


There are potential remedies to address the issue of the non-participation of MLB players in the Olympics. However, they aren’t palatable from the marketing and revenue standpoint. Nevertheless, they could be worth trying.

1. Schedule adjustments

MLB can halt or adjust its season to allow its members to participate in the Olympics. Alternatively, they can have their teams play without their best players for two to three weeks. Or they can choose some star players to join the Olympics and retain the rest to play in the MLB season.

2. Better collaboration

The Olympics Committee, MLB owners and leaders, and MLB clubs and unions of players can have a dialogue to address the issue and come up with possible solutions or a reasonable compromise that considers the interests of the involved parties.

Condensing the Olympics Baseball into one week could be a feasible option.

Frequently Asked Questions


How is the Olympic baseball team being chosen?

The USA Baseball will work collaboratively with a head coach to select potential players who will compete to earn their slots on the final team. The final Roster of successful player-applicants will be announced before the Olympics.

Are there people who advocate for the participation of MLB players in the Olympics?

Yes, definitely. Many MLB players, clubs, unions, and sports enthusiasts expressed their support for allowing MLB players in the Olympics.

During an ESPN interview in 2020, Phillies MVP Bryce Harper voiced his frustration about not letting him and his co-big leaguers participate in the Olympics Baseball. Pulling no punches, he called it “dumb” to bar all-star players from the Olympics because the MLB owners don’t want to lose money.

Are some countries allowing their best players to partake in the Olympics?

Yes. Japan and South Korea temporarily suspend their major leagues to allow their best players to play in the Olympics. Why can’t the US follow suit?

Why was baseball removed from the Olympics?

The International Olympics Committee cited that the absence of MLB players was the reason for baseball not in the Olympics program.

Is it true that baseball is being replaced in the Olympics with breakdancing?

Yes, that’s true. The IOC announced that breakdancing will take the slot of baseball in the 2024 Paris Olympics.


Why don’t MLB players play in the Olympics? Several reasons come into play, including overlapping schedules, players’ safety, revenue concerns, and disqualification of players in the 40-man Roster.

Possible interventions can be implemented, such as schedule adjustments or temporary suspension of major leagues. However, neither is amenable to MLB owners as big revenue tops their concerns.

We hope to see MLB superstars in the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Fans could only dream of an MLB Olympics team in the future. But take heart because some dreams do come true.

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