The 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain were the first games to feature baseball as an official medal sport. Once again there were eight teams participating and for the first time, one of those teams was Cuba. The host country Spain also made their Olympic debut that year and were joined by Japan, the US and Taiwan (who had played in all the Olympics so far) as well as 1984 participants Italy and the Dominican Republic and 1988 participant Puerto Rico. South Korea did not qualify for the tournament.
For the first time the games would be split between two venues - Estadi La Feixa Llarga in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat and Estadi Olimpic de Viladecans in Viladecans (hometown of Enrique Cortés Pes of the Spanish team). The two venues were only about eight miles apart. The ballpark in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat has been converted to a football stadium but the one in Viladecans is still configured for baseball and is the home ballpark for CB Viladecans of the División de Honor de Béisbol, the highest level of baseball played in Spain.
Despite the decision to allow professionals to participate by the international organizations for other sports (such as basketball - the Barcelona Olympics saw the first US "Dream Team" completely dominate the competition), baseball once again was limited to amateurs. As a result Japan's 20 man roster was again made up of corporate league and college players. Well, actually, it was almost entirely corporate league players as there was only one collegiate player - Hiroki Kokubo of Aoyamagakuin University. The coaching staff was made up entirely of corporate league coaches, led by Masatake Yamanake of Sumitomo Metal, who had been the pitching coach for the 1988 team. The other two coaches were Nobuhisa Arai of Kobe Steel and Hiroo Nobata (at least that's how Google Translate is rendering 野端啓夫 - not sure if that's correct) of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Mihara. For the first time the roster featured a player who had previously played in the Olympics as Masafumi Nishi of Osaka Gas had also been on the 1988 team. Here's the roster:
|18||Pitcher||Itoh, Tomohito||10/30/1970||Mitsubishi Motors Kyoto||1992 Swallows 1st|
|28||Outfielder||Kawabata, Shinichiro||12/5/1966||Sumitomo Metal||N/A|
|17||Pitcher||Kohiyama, Masahito||5/7/1969||Nippon Oil||1992 Baystars 1st|
|7||Infielder||Kojima, Hirotami||3/3/1964||Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagasaki||N/A|
|8||Infielder||Kokubo, Hiroki||10/8/1971||Aoyamagakuin University||1993 Hawks 2nd|
|23||Catcher||Miwa, Takashi||12/1/1969||Kobe Steel||1993 BlueWave 2nd|
|26||Outfielder||Nakamoto, Hiroshi||8/22/1966||Matsushita Electric||N/A|
|4||Infielder||Nishi, Masafumi||11/25/1960||Osaka Gas||N/A|
|16||Pitcher||Nishiyama, Kazutaka||8/28/1970||NTT Shikoku||1992 Giants 3rd|
|1||Infielder||Ohshima, Koichi||6/17/1967||Nippon Life||1992 Buffaloes 5th|
|9||Outfielder||Sakaguchi, Hiroyuki||8/2/1965||Nippon Oil||N/A|
|25||Outfielder||Satoh, Shinichi||8/7/1965||Takugin||1992 Hawks 4th|
|12||Pitcher||Satoh, Yasuhiro||7/25/1967||Prince Hotel||N/A|
|19||Pitcher||Sugiura, Masanori||5/23/1968||Nippon Life||N/A|
|14||Pitcher||Sugiyama, Kento||12/12/1968||Toshiba||1992 Lions 1st|
|6||Infielder||Togo, Akihiro||2/18/1967||Nippon Life||N/A|
|5||Infielder||Tokunaga, Koji||9/3/1968||Nippon Oil||N/A|
|3||Infielder||Wakabayashi, Shigeki||12/24/1966||Nippon Oil||N/A|
|15||Pitcher||Watanabe, Katsumi||5/16/1962||Daishowa Paper Hokkaido||N/A|
The format for the tournament changed for these games. Instead of having the teams split into two groups for the first round, this time all eight teams played games against each of the other seven teams in the first round. The top four teams after this round would go on to the medal rounds. The semi finals would pit the first place team against the fourth place team and the second place team against the third place team. The winners would meet in the gold medal game while the losers would play for the bronze medal.
Japan went 5-2 in the first round. They absolutely dominated in the games they won, defeating Puerto Rico 9-0, Spain 12-1, the Dominican Republic 17-0, Italy 13-3 and the US 7-1. They lost to Cuba 8-2 and Taiwan 2-0. Their record put them in a three way tie with Taiwan and the US for second best record after Cuba's undefeated 7-0. Japan was awarded second place overall on the basis of the "runs allowed" tie breaker with Taiwan in third place and the US in fourth.
Japan lost to Taiwan 5-2 in their semi-final matchup which meant for the first time in Olympic baseball history (all three Olympics of it) Japan would not be playing in the gold medal game. Team USA lost to Cuba 6-1 in their semi-final game so for the first time in Olympic baseball history the US would not be in the gold medal game either. The two teams squared off in the bronze medal game which saw Japan take an early 4-0 lead in the second inning. The US made it a close 4-3 game by the end of the fifth but Japan scored another four runs in the sixth and held on for an 8-3 victory. Cuba defeated Taiwan 11-1 to win the gold medal game.
Surprisingly only eight members of the Japanese Olympic baseball team went on to play professionally in NPB. This is the smallest number from any of the four amateur Olympic team rosters (1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996) and half the number who went pro from the 1984 roster. Here's a card and a blurb of each of the future professionals:
|1994 BBM Late Series #572|
|2000 BBM #204|
|1999 Calbee #132|
|1995 BBM Orix Team Set I #15|
|2002 Giants Team Issued Card #26|
|1999 BBM #442|
|1999 Future Bee Swallows #026|
|1994 Takara #29|
I want to also mention that the head coach and one of the corporate league players have some baseball cards, despite never appearing in NPB.
|2017 BBM Infinity #043|
|2000 Upper Deck Sydney Olympic Games Japanese Team Cards #223|