Host City: Athina, Greece
Date Started: August 15, 2004
Date Finished: August 25, 2004
Participants: 191 (191 men and 0 women) from 8 countries
Youngest Participant: Alex Smit (18 years, 318 days)
Oldest Participant: Rob Ducey (39 years, 84 days)
Most Medals (Athlete): 72 athletes with 1 medal
Most Medals (Country): 3 countries with 1 medal
The 2004 Olympic baseball tournament was conducted at the Olympiako Kentro Beisbol, or the Olympic Baseball Centre, at the Helliniko Olympic Complex in Athina. The sport was almost unknown in Greece, so after the Olympics, the stadium was converted and has since been a football (soccer) stadium, and is known as Hellinikon Stadium. The Helliniko Olympic Complex was built on the site of the former Athina International Airport.
The tournament consisted of eight teams who participated in a round-robin tournament, which advanced the top four teams to the semi-finals, where a single-elimination semi-final, final, and a bronze medal game determined the top four places. The eight teams were chosen as follows – Greece as the host nation; the top two teams from the 2004 Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament (Cuba, Canada); the top two teams at the 2004 European Olympic Qualifying Tournament (Italy, the Netherlands); the top two teams at the 2003 Asian Championship (Japan, Chinese Taipei); and Australia, winner of the 2003 Oceanian Championship, qualified in a play-off over South Africa, the 2003 All-Africa Champion.
This selection had some controversy. First of all, baseball was so unknown in Greece that they had to recruit Greek-American college players to make up a team. Secondly, although the United States, the Caribbean countries, and several Asian countries, notably Japan and Chinese Taipei, dominated international baseball, Europe was given three spots in the tournament, for some unknown reason, by adding the top two from the European Olympic Qualifying Tournament to the pseudo-Greek team. Finally, the United States, where the game was invented and best known, did not qualify in the Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which was the only qualifying tournament conducted as a single-elimination, rather than a double-elimination, tournament.
Japan and Cuba both won 6 games and lost 1 in the round-robin but Japan was seeded first based on run margin. However, Australia defeated Japan in the semi-finals, only to lose in the final to Cuba, who won their third Olympic gold medal in four attempts.