The competition consisted of a preliminary round with each team playing all the other teams once, for a total of seven games. The top four teams at the end of this round advanced to the medals round. The medals round consisted of two semifinal games with the winners advancing to the gold medal game. The losing teams of the semifinals would play in the bronze medal game.
Despite being the "home of baseball" and the defending gold medalists, the United States did not make it to Athens after losing a qualifying game to Mexico, 1-0. The Americas Tournament, which decided which two teams from North America, South America and the Caribbean went to Athens, was single-elimination, when almost all other baseball tournaments are double-elimination. (The Mexicans didn't make it to the Olympics either; in the very next round, they were beaten by Canada.) Ironically, many Americans wound up playing in Athens anyway, as members of the nascent Greek team.
Others took issue with the fact that three of the eight slots in the Olympics (including the hosts) were European, while the Americas and Asia (with much stronger baseball nations) got only two slots apiece. The absence of such teams as the USA, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and South Korea led to disinterest in the Olympic tournament in those countries.
The 2008 tournament has changed the qualifying procedure; the United States qualified, as did Cuba and the host country China.
The top four teams (Japan, Cuba, Canada and Australia) advanced to the semifinals. To determine the seed ranking of teams tied in the standings, the result of the two teams' game against each other was used. Japan therefore received first place due to the win over Cuba. In the semi-finals, Japan (#1) played Australia (#4) and Cuba (#2) played Canada (#3). The higher ranked team in each game was the home team.
WP:Ryan Rowland Smith (2-0) LP:Sean Spencer (0-1) Home runs:
GRE: P. Maestrales in 2nd, 1 RBI; J. Kavourias in 8th, 1 RBI
AUS: B. Roneberg in 3rd; P. Gonzalez in 3rd, 2 RBIs; G. Roneberg in 6th, 1 RBI; 1 RBI; B. Kingman in 7th, 3 RBIs
WP:Craig Lewis (1-0) LP:Calvin Maduro (0-2) Home runs:
AUS: B. Roneberg in 1st, 2 RBIs; R. van Buizen in 3rd, 4 RBIs; G. Fingleson in 2nd, 3 RBIs; G. Williams in 6th, 2 RBIs
NED: Y. de Caster in 2nd, 1 RBI; R. Millard in 5th, 1 RBI