The Summer Olympics are almost underway with baseball making its return to the Olympics. The sport was last played in 2008. South Korea won the Gold Medal. Baseball is one of five sports that was added to this year’s program. Sadly, it was stating that baseball and softball won’t return for the 2024 Olympic Games. This year, Japan, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic belong in Group A. In Group B, Israel, South Korea, and the United States will be partaking in this year’s games. Teams have announced their respective rosters and some familiar faces that will be taking the diamond in a few weeks. Here are some of the intriguing names from each team that will be representing their country during The Olympics.
Jose Bautista– Dominican Republic
Yes, the home run champion from 2010 will be playing for the Dominican Republic in The Olympics. Bautista, currently 40 years of age, will help provide a spark for the Dominican Republic’s offense. He last played baseball in 2018, between the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, and the Philadelphia Phillies. The six-time all-star is notably known for his days with the Toronto Blue Jays, hitting 344 home runs during his 15-year MLB tenure. It will be up to him, MLB veteran Melky Cabrera and Mariners prospect Julio Rodriguez to help their chances at bringing home a Gold medal.
Ian Kinsler– Israel
After wrapping up his playing career in 2019, Kinsler decided to obtain his Israeli citizenship so he could represent Israel at the Olympics. Kinsler finished his career with 1,999 hits, falling one hit short of 2,000. The four-time all-star played in the MLB with the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, and the San Diego Padres. He also won four Gold Glove Awards for his outstanding defense at second base. Israel will look to make a strong impression at The Olympics, joining Danny Valencia for a shot at winning a Gold medal this year.
Masahiro Tanaka– Japan
After coming to the MLB in 2014, Masahiro Tanaka returned to Japan to pitch with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles on a two-year contract. The two-time MLB all-star pitched with the New York Yankees, holding a career 78-46 record with a 3.74 ERA through 173 career starts. Tanaka is now the highest-paid player in Nippon Professional Baseball history, making 8.6 million dollars a year. He is also no stranger to The Olympics, pitching out of Japan’s bullpen in 2008. He had a 0.00 ERA and the highest strikeout rate for the team in 2008. It will be key if Tanaka can handle the pressure of the Olympics once again. Japan hopes he can throw some quality innings to keep Japan’s chances of playing strong throughout the series.
Adrian Gonzalez– Mexico
Earlier this season, Gonzalez stated he did not retire yet because it has always been his goal to represent Mexico at the Olympics. The number one overall pick in the 2000 MLB Draft will provide power into Mexico’s lineup to give them a chance at winning a Gold medal. Gonzalez, 39, last played in the MLB with the New York Mets in 2018, slugging 6 home runs, hitting .237. The five-time all-star hit a career total of 317 home runs throughout 15 years in the MLB. He also won four Gold Glove Awards during his career. El Titan is currently playing in the Mexican League with the Mariachis de Guadalajara to prepare him for The Olympics. He joins Oliver Perez, Ramiro Pena, and Danny Espinosa for Mexico as they get ready to compete. Hopefully, Gonzalez’s power will be on full display to give a boost for Mexico’s offense.
Hyun-soo Kim– South Korea
No stranger to the Olympic Games, Hyun-soo Kim represented South Korea on their Gold Medal team in 2008. He was a key contributor, hitting .370 with 4 RBI’s. A four-time KBO Gold Glove winner also made a brief appearance in the MLB. Kim made appearances with the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies. In Kim’s rookie season in 2016, he impressed the Orioles, slashing .302, with 6 home runs, 22 RBIs in 95 games. After struggling in the MLB in the 2017 season, he returned to Korea to play for the LG Twins. Currently, the 33-year old is raking with the LG Twins, batting .288, with 12 home runs and 48 RBI’s. South Korea looks to have a jolt at the top of their lineup with Kim starting in one of the outfield positions to strike gold once again.
Shane Baz– United States
Baz still has yet to make his Major League debut but is not far off from making his debut with the Tampa Bay Rays. He is currently ranked 71 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list and ranked the number five prospect in Tampa’s organization. Baz started off the 2021 campaign with Tampa’s AA Affiliate pitching to a 2-4 record with a 2.48 ERA in AA. Promoted to AAA, Baz showed that he is capable of pitching well, making five starts, whiffing 33 batters, with a 1.96 ERA. The hard-throwing right-hander was selected in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Baz was traded in the deal that sent Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows to the Tampa Bays Rays in exchange for Chris Archer. Baz will look to provide Team USA to eat innings, joining other prospects, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Joe Ryan, and Triston Casas to help the United States go for gold. They will be joined by MLB veterans Todd Frazier, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir.
As the Olympic Games are within a week away, players are beginning to go to Tokyo to get ready for the action. It will very competitive with some of the best players coming together to face each other to get their countries a Gold medal. The first game will be played on July 28th where the Dominican Republic will square off facing Japan. The game will take place at Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Japan. Which team will take home the Olympic Gold medal in 2021?