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Tuesday, September 19
Baseball Fan Guide

Olympic competition dates: Sept. 17-27
Venues: Baseball Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park; Baseball Centre, Blacktown Olympic Centre

The outlook
Professional players are eligible to take part for the first time in the Olympics, which could affect powerhouse Cuba. The Cubans won the first two Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 and have taken every world championship since 1974. Watch for former major leaguers Tim Raines and Dave Nilsson, who will catch for Australia, which earned an automatic bid as the host nation.

The finer points
Format: The field consists of eight teams of 20 players playing in a round-robin tournament. The top four teams progress to the semifinals.

Rules: Games will be played under International Baseball Association rules with two exceptions: (1) aluminum bats are allowed, and (2) a 10-run difference rule is used (game ends if a team is losing by 10 or more runs after having batted seven times).

Olympic debut: Professional players will be allowed to participate for the first time in Olympic history.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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