Up until yesterday, my heroes of baseball included Roy Hobbs, Ray Kinsella, Henry Aaron, and my son, Corey. Each holds a special place in my heart for a multitude of different reasons and for what they represent in my thousands of fond baseball memories.
After speaking yesterday with Dr. Harvey Schiller, President of the International Baseball Federation (IBAF), it is quite clear that I need to make space for yet another hero of the sport I love.
Though his name will never be found in a box score or the record book of baseball history, Schiller may forever be remembered as the man who saved Olympic baseball.
Schiller and the rest of the IBAF are faced with the daunting task of trying to get baseball reinstated into the 2016 Olympics for the games of the XXXI Olympiad.
Imagine the immense pressure and the magnitude of the task resting on Schiller's shoulders, as the future of the the inclusion of baseball on this International stage rests in peril.
"We have done everything asked of us by the Olympic movement, including stepping up our anti-doping policy, in order to meet the requirements to return to the Olympic Games," said Dr. Schiller who was elected as President of the IBAF in 2007.
Schiller and the IBAF insist that its Olympic hopes should not be hurt by the high-profile doping controversies in Major League Baseball involving such stars as Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Barry Bonds.
In a June 13 article written by Simon Ward, Schiller stated “We have millions of people who play the game, billions of people who watch the game. Why should young people around the world be denied the opportunity to play in the Olympics by these few?”
“Despite some of the recent headlines, baseball as a sport has never been better positioned globally for success,” explained Dr. Schiller.
Schiller and several other IBAF dignitaries traveled to Japan in mid-June to present their case to the International Olympic Committee and feel confident that the meeting went well.
Following the meeting, Schiller held a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo and revealed that in order to have MLB players participate in the Olympics, IBAF is proposing a plan to shorten the duration of the tournament from 11 days to five days.
"I have requested all the owners to send their best players to the Olympics. I am confident about it”, added Schiller.
Baseball, along with softball were both voted out of the 2012 Olympics to be held in London and is one of seven sports seeking to fill the two available openings in the games of 2016. The other sports vying for the two spots are karate, golf, roller sports, rugby sevens, softball, and squash.
The IBAF is the governing body of all International competition in baseball, excluding when a Major League team travels to a foreign land to play and includes the recently completed World Baseball Classic.
As the IBAF web site so accurately explains, "Baseball is not Korean, or American or Japanese or Cuban. Baseball is global."
"It's played by millions of children and adults in 100 different countries. It has been played at the Olympics beginning in 1904, and has been a medal sport since 1992."
The IBAF has recently extended support of the book "A Glove of Their Own" to help further their cause and will be sending one of the award winning children's book to each of the participating countries around the globe.
"We feel that the principals of fair play, sharing and inclusiveness exhibited in the book are perfect examples of the values baseball teaches to people around the world. The organization will partner with the "A Glove of Their Own" team to get the book to as many members of the IOC as possible as an example of how baseball can unify all."
"Since the book is geared to young people, perhaps those reading it and sharing it will some day be rewarded with an Olympic experience due to the lessons taught in the book."
The IBAF will also hopes to encourage sales of the book to their Federations throughout the world, with proceeds going to the IBAF Charity "Pitch In For Baseball."
As the site explains, "The first recorded account of a baseball game was in 1838 in Beechville, Ontario, Canada. Likewise, the faces of baseball come from Ghana and Uganda; from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela; from the United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Poland and Latvia; from Israel and Jordan; from Korea, China, Chinese Taipei and Singapore, New Zealand and Australia."
All of the players, all the fans, all the coaches and umpires around the world can say, "I am baseball."
So as you can see, Dr. Schiller and the IBAF have not only America's baseball resting on their shoulders, but baseball around the world. And that is how a man becomes one of my baseball heroes.
Todd Civin is a free lance writer for the Bleacher Report and is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own. He encourages you to visit the site at www.agloveoftheirown.com and to purchase the book using the code of Pitch in For Baseball PIF 129.