Mike Piazza’s double and Jason Grilli’s near-perfect 4.2 innings of pitching, which prompted a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd at Lake Buena Vista’s Walt Disney World Resort in Florida during Team Italy’s 10-0 win over Australia in the first round of the 2006 World Baseball Classic, may have something to do with it. Perhaps the perks of being an Italian ballplayer including the sweet aroma of the delicious post-game Sicilian cuisine-inspired victory celebrations in the club house was appetizing enough for Piazza to make what seemingly could become a lifetime commitment to one’s country of ancestry. With over five years of service to date under his belt, the one-time Marlin and current Team Italy hitting coach Mike Piazza is a big catch for the Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) by inspiring a whole new generation of Italian athletes and furthering baseball’s reach in Europe. “The biggest thing for me is trying to promote the game in Europe,” Piazza said.
Like a gondolier in Venezia, Piazza is singing songs of praise for the World Baseball Classic. He said, “I believe in it. I think it’s great. I hope someday down the line it turns into a world-class, World Cup-type thing. I think that’s in conjunction with the way the game is evolving and changing. One of my personal mottos is: ‘If you are going to do it, don’t do it halfway.’ If they’re going to really make a concerted effort to develop the Classic, truly make it a world event.”
2013 World Baseball Classic Pool D play begins on March 7th when Italy battles Mexico at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. The Italians return March 8th to take on Canada. Team Italy travels to Chase Field in Phoenix on March 9th to face Team USA. The winner and runner-up of Pool D will advance to the second round of a modified-double elimination tourney.
The two teams will play the winner and runner-up of Pool C (which includes Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Spain and host Puerto Rico) beginning March 12th at Marlins Park in Miami. The winner and runner-up of the stiff competition will move on to the WBC Championship Round starting March 17th at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Not only does Piazza believe in the WBC, but he also has faith in Italian baseball. Having already coached Team Italy to two of its three consecutive European Championships and hinting of a WBC title, he said: “Our dream one day is to have this team be a champion.”