International baseball visionary Robert Smith, the man who made the game an Olympic sport, passes away

International baseball visionary Robert Smith, the man who made the game an Olympic sport, passes away
20/08/2021
"The baseball world as we know it today is because of visionaries like Robert Smith," said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari.

The baseball world has lost one of the very people who helped build it.

Robert Smith, who was serving as the International Baseball Federation president in 1986, when baseball was voted onto the Barcelona 1992 Olympic programme, passed away on 18 August, the Greenville University reports. He was 85.

A long serving sports administrator, Smith was credited for first making baseball official Olympic sport.

As part of his ongoing legacy, Smith obtained the support of Peter O'Malley, the owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers of Major League Baseball (MLB), to guarantee against eventual losses of baseball's demonstration tournament at the LA 1984 Olympics Games.

And on 13 October 1986, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made baseball an official Olympic medal sport.

Baseball was officially organized in approximately 50 countries and territories at the time the sport was voted onto the Olympic programme in 1986. Following baseball's Olympic debut in 1992 and showings at the 1996 and 2000 Games, baseball's global footprint had expanded to over 100 countries and territories, more than doubling IBAF's member/national federations.

"Very sad to learn of the passing of former International Baseball Federation President Robert Smith," said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari. "The baseball world as we know it today is because of visionaries like Robert Smith."

Smith was bestowed the Olympic Order, the highest honor given by the International Olympic Committee, for his efforts on making baseball an official medal sport.

Also during Smith's tenure as president, he started the Honors Programme, the yearly recognitions that exist to date, began developing the U-16 and U-18 World Cups, signed the historic first sponsorship contract with Rawlings and published a World Baseball Magazine.

Smith worked for some time, together with the International Softball Federation (ISF) President Don Porter, to create the International Confederation of Amateur Baseball and Softball. The project stood until that day in 1986 when softball didn't make the Olympic programme.

After the successful 1992 Olympics, Smith decided that his days as an international baseball leader were over.

"I had been named President of the Greenville College, so I thought I needed to spend more time there. I didn’t want to be a shadow President. I had seen so many leaders fall in love with the fringe benefits that come with international sports leadership," Smith commented in 2011 for the WBSC publication The Game We Love.

He added: "I have always been so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time."