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March 6, 2009 at 2:00 am ET
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That’s-A Spicy Met Ball!: And Other Culturally Insensitive Team Italy World Baseball Tidbits

The Italians dropped to 0-2 in exhibition play with Thursday's loss. Meanwhile, the sky is up.The World Baseball Classic is finally underway, and despite having to wait until Saturday to play its first official WBC game, Team Italy gave an early indication of things to come Thursday. They lost to a bunch of New York Mets backups by a score of 3-2. This loss follows a 9-6 thrashing by the Nationals (the Team Italy of Major League Baseball).

Possessing arguably the most immense cache of Italian baseball-related knowledge of any living human – and less arguably being the only Dutch wiseass willing to write about some ragtag national team that has no bearing on his life or his lineage – I wasn’t at all surprised with the losing outcome of this exhibition game. But the way they lost, as in nearly won, might raise a few eyebrows. I know I almost dropped a fat Connoli in my pants whence glancing closely at the box score.

Italy nearly won.

Everyday Italian:
Shockingly, Italy played like its been on a baseball diamond before. Together they notched 10 hits and 8 walks offensively, while pitchers (Jason Grilli and six no-namers) held New York scoreless, with just 4 hits over the first eight innings. The MLB-semi-capable trio of Nick Punto, Vinny Rottino and Chris Denorfia each swiped a bag and notched at least one hit apiece. Equally subconsciously notable Frank Catalanotto registered a hit and knocked in run to boot. In all, the Italians chalked up 2 runs… both during a 3rd inning offensive explosion that found them nearly getting a hit that wasn’t a single!

When in Rome…:
It’s possible that Italy got caught up in the nearly meaningful moment while approaching victory over a team that boasted superstars like Fernando Tatis and Rob Mackowiak, or maybe Italy, in a panic, likened themselves to their historically vaunted army… regardless of what enabled such an epic bedshitting to empart, the result wasn’t (textually) pretty. Italy’s 10 hits (all singles) and 8 walks were countered by 10 strikeouts, which played a large part in them stranding a small Italian family worth of players (26) on base.

That’s Amore-A (than 2):
Everything went as expected wrong for Italy in the 9th when Kasey Olenberger was to pitching as Frank Stallone was to acting. Olenberger surrendered a trio of runs in a mere third of an inning to vanquish Italy’s hopes of gaining a meaningless win over a team of hacks to propel them to a possibly less embarrassing loss in the World Baseball Classic. But in a bit of good news, Olenberger’s .1 IP and 0-1 record are almost certainly good enough numbers to guarantee him a place in the Italian Baseball Hall of Fame. He’s also in the running for the Antonio DiPhillipo – Italy’s version of the Cy Young.

Forget About It!!!:
Italy will look forget about a heartbreaking near win and focus their sights on an impending near certain loss. They’ll play underdog to Venezuela Saturday night and ut doesn’t look good. But don’t take it from me; even Brewers manager Ken Macha doesn’t like Team Italy’s chances.

“Manager Ken Macha was asked if Mark DiFelice would hurt his chances of making the bullpen out of camp by going to pitch for Italy in the World Baseball Classic. Macha paused and asked, “He’s playing for Italy, right?” Then he paused again before finishing, “He’ll be back (soon).”

Be sure to check back for full coverage on all things Italian… Sunday or Monday – when I feel like recapping their loss.

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