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February 24, 2009 at 10:52 pm ET
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Classically Italian: Introducing Team Italy

Introducing the Italian team.An E-mail was circulated through our writer’s stable a few months back. In it, someone (I want to say Landon) had the idea that B&C writers, on top of their own team beats and clubhouse pieces, should volunteer to cover a country partaking in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. I was intrigued.

Being one of 11 people who paid at least some attention to the previous classic back in 2006, I naturally wanted the chance to absorb an exciting new beat. And as a ¾ Dutch, ¼ German guy who’s never ventured outside North America, and has recently criticized the entire European continents’ baseball ineptitude, Italy was the obvious choice for me.

Beyond the primal satisfaction I derive from spaghetti, Rocky IV, Mario All-Stars, and the sexy culinary stylings of Giada De Laurentiis, I know very little about Italian culture. I know even less about Italian baseball. Until this winter, I would’ve pegged “Italian baseball” to be a low brow oxymoron, yet after looking at Italy’s provisional roster, I was surprised to see that Italy could not only field a team – but also field a team with like four names I recognized.

Italy, and every team for that matter, announced its final roster Tuesday. And true to the country I have absolutely no connection with, preference for or obligation to, I present a brief overview of team Italia!

Setting Sal without Fasano:
In a surprising, low-to-mid profile and kind of funny twist, the biggest news regarding Italy’s roster relates to a player not even on it. Iconic Italian-American mustachioed backstop Sal Fasano (Above left… wait, above right?!?) opted out of competition because the Rockies need catching depth. I know what you’re thinking… “Wait, Sal Fasano is still in the Majors and he’s on the Rockies now?” Apparently.

Star Power:
While semi-stars like Ryan Braun, David Ortiz and Ichiro Suzuki represent their respective nations, Italy plans to supply its own superstar power. Kind of notable names Forces like Nick Punto, Jason Grilli, Frank Catalanotto and Chris Denorfia will anchor the Italian squad. There’s no telling how far the fearsome quad’s collective muscle, wisdom and excessive body hair can will this team; let’s just say some experts have them finishing as high as next to last.

How many Italian dudes does it take to field a World Baseball Classic team?:
In Italy’s case – 10. Almost half of the team is comprised of Italians, that is to say non-major or minor leaguers who hail directly from Italy. This not only opens the unexpected possibility that a group of unknowns will blow teams away, but also the obvious likelihood this team of scrubs will straight up blow.

Double Bubble:
Leave the Peroni in the icebox. Next to no chance of making the big league squad out of Spring Training A sense of great national pride hath delivered team Italy a two-pack of Brewers. Vinny Rottino will challenge slightly more Italian-named Yankees prospect Francisco Cervelli for the starting catching job. Mark DiFelice, who languished 11 years in the minors before posting a 2.84 E.R.A. for Milwaukee over 19 innings last season, will pitch in the classic.

Any other loose Wisconsin connections to tell us about, douchebag?:
Funny you should ask, yes! Infielder Alex Liddi hit .244 and tallied 19 errors as part of the last place low-A Wisconsin (Appleton) Timber Rattlers last season. I couldn’t resist.

I hope this brief introduction was an enjoyable way to gain exposure to a lesser-known group of competitors. I pledge that as long as Italy is “competing” in the WBC, I will be there to tirelessly chronicle every foul tip, hit by pitch and overthrow that propels them to their laughably early departure. I’ll help navigate their gondola to the back of the pack – unless they actually win or something… I have other shit to do.

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3 Responses to “Classically Italian: Introducing Team Italy”
  1. TTB says:

    Excellent piece. Does anyone know what other non-Latin/Asian countries are participating? Everyone loves a dark horse. I, for one, would love to see what Scotland or maybe Latvia might have to offer.

  2. tyler says:

    Thanks, TTB.

    The Netherlands, Austrillia and South Africa round out the non Asian/Latian American countries. On a side, I asked a Latvian exchange student out on a date in college.

    She said no.

  3. TTB says:

    If the Netherlands wins a game will that be a Dutch Treat?

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