PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bryce Harper wants to take a swing at the Olympics.
The Philadelphia Phillies slugger said it would be a dream to play for Team USA when baseball returns for the 2028 Los Angeles Games. Harper, who turned 31 on Monday, has long been an advocate of Major League Baseball taking a break during the season to let major leaguers play in the Olympics.
Harper said his wife texted him a happy birthday message attached to news about baseball’s return.
“You talk about growing the game, and that’s the way you grow it at the highest peak,” Harper said. “You let guys that are playing in the league take that break just like in the NHL and see what happens. I think it would be really cool. I think it would be a lot of fun. I don’t know if they’ll ever go for it, but I would love to put USA on my chest and represent it at the highest level.”
Baseball became an official Olympic sport in 1992 and was initially open only to amateur players. Pros were later permitted, but MLB hasn’t let active big leaguers participate. The Olympics scrapped baseball after the 2008 Games, although it was brought back for the 2020 Tokyo Games in baseball-mad Japan. Baseball and softball were left off the Paris 2024 slate.
Harper, a two-time NL MVP, was batting .368 with three homers for the Phillies in the postseason. Harper spoke ahead of Game 1 of the NL Championship Series against Arizona.
Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies ahead of the 2019 season. He would be 10 years into the contract and 35 years old, should he get the chance to play for Team USA in LA.
“I will be old at that point, so I don’t know if they’re going to want me to be on the team, but it’s always a dream,” Harper said. “I mean, I think it’s everybody’s dream to be in the Olympics.”
Harper had hoped to play for Team USA in spring training at the World Baseball Classic but was recovering from offseason elbow surgery. The WBC is operated by MLB and takes place during spring training, meaning players do not need to miss regular season games to participate.
The NHL used to pause its regular season to allow players to skate in the Winter Games, but that ended for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
Cricket, flag football, softball, lacrosse and squash also were confirmed Monday by the International Olympic Committee to be held at the Los Angeles Games.
The slate of sports cleared a final hurdle from the Olympic body’s full membership at a meeting in Mumbai, India, after being proposed by Los Angeles officials one week ago. The slate was recommended by the IOC executive board on Friday.
Phillies manager Rob Thomson, raised in Corunna, Ontario, was part of the Canadian squad that competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles when baseball was a demonstration sport.
“I think it should be in the Olympics,” he said. “My experience was I come from a town of 2,000 people, and I had never played in front of more than 500 people in my life. Our first game was against Venezuela in Dodger Stadium, and there was 45,000 people in the stadium, and I don’t even remember the first inning, to tell you the truth. I was just as nervous as you could get.
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