Aussie legend, manager David Nilsson says Olympics, int'l play important for baseball

Aussie legend, manager David Nilsson says Olympics, int'l play important for baseball
06/08/2020
The former MLB All-Star turned down major contract-offers to have a chance to represent his country in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

After eight years in the big leagues and at the end of a 1999 Major League Baseball (MLB) season that resulted in 115 games played, 21 HRs and a .309 batting average, David Nilsson was a 30-year-old free agent worth at least the US$ 5 million of his expiring contract.

The current Australian National Baseball Team manager wanted to represent his country in the Olympics on home soil at the 2000 Sydney Games. It was not going to happen if he committed to an MLB contract.

Regarding the move to pass up a big paycheck, Nilsson's Wikipedia page states: "He was widely applauded for this move as he was turning down big money to represent his country".

Keeping his cool, Nilsson played down WBSC.org's attempt to stir up past emotions in a recent interview.

"For many reasons I had the opportunity to represent my country at the Olympics so I chose to play," he said.

WBSC: As a young man, you went a long way from the teenager who signed a professional contract to the All-Star. Building a baseball career requires talent and a solid attitude. Can you teach/train that?

Nilsson: "The world is a lot smaller now and young players have all the information in the world to chase their dreams. If they have the commitment and talent to play at the MLB level, they will find a way to get there."

WBSC: Will we ever see MLB committing to the Olympic Games?

Nilsson: "I think so. I think the MLB players and owners are starting to understand the opportunity it brings to grow the game of baseball."

Nilsson was the starting catcher for Australia at the Games of the XXVII Olympiad Sydney 2000. They went 2-5.

WBSC: Was it because the level of play of those Games at the time unmatched?

Nilsson: "I’m not sure. There are great talents at every Olympics."

WBSC: Australia did much better four years later in Athens.

Nilsson: "Our team was disappointed after our performance in 2000. It was a great achievement to win a silver medal."

WBSC: WBSC just presented, in collaboration with the Olympic Channel, the final of the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad Athens 2004 during the Olympic Baseball Rewind series. There was a lot of controversy on a missed umpire call that stopped Australia's rally and changed the trend of the final.

Nilsson: "As a player, you can’t control the umpires and need to play regardless of the call. After the game, I felt some intentional umpiring decisions had affected the result."

WBSC: Baseball is making a comeback in Tokyo and Australia still has a chance to make the six-team tournament. How are you planning the National Team activity amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

Nilsson: "Our players will prepare in the Australian Baseball League and we hope to have a team camp prior to the Final Olympic Qualifier."

WBSC: You managed Australia to sixth place in the II Premier12. How do you value international baseball in a packed baseball calendar?

Nilsson: "I think it is important for the continued growth of the game that International events are played every year."