The European Baseball Coaches Association recently recognized Team Italia pitching coach Bill Holmberg for his excellence by honoring him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Having grown the game abroad for over ten years as the MLB director and coach in residence at the FIBS Italian Academy in Tirrenia, Italy, Holmberg has been instrumental in the advancement and development of baseball in Europe. The fruits of his labor in Italy have blossomed from the Youth to the National Team levels as witnessed by the Azzurri’s ascent from #11 to #9 in the WBSC March 2016 World Rankings. A former Chicago Cubs scout who knows what it takes to be competitive in MLB, Holmberg helped Alessandro Maestri, Alex Liddi, Alberto Mineo and Marten Gasparini launch professional baseball careers worldwide.
In an effort to promote reggae music while exemplifying unity among various races and cultures in England, UB40 became a politically-charged entity when the group began in 1979. Original UB40 lead vocalist Ali Campbell said, “We had something tangible to speak out against then. Now England is worse than it’s ever been. Politically, reggae has always spoken against the establishment. It’s synonymous with protest. We supported South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, and you can see the effect the entire movement had when the whole world stopped when Mandella passed away. It was felt around the world and that legacy is something South Africans can be proud of.” Approaching his 57th birthday in February and having sold more that 70 million records worldwide, Campbell has the same sense of urgency that the late and great Bob Marley had in spreading “Rebel Music” and “Positive Vibration”. Campbell explained: “We started out on the streets of Birmingham as kids wanting to make reggae music. I set UB40 up years ago when I started the band to travel the world promoting reggae and dub music. That was my mission back then and it still is today. We have been flying the flag for reggae basically.”
After 30 years of fronting UB40, Ali resigned from the band due to “intolerable management difficulties”. Original UB40 keyboardist Mickey Virtue followed Ali’s lead shortly thereafter in 2008. Having become disillusioned with the band’s creative direction since Ali’s departure, UB40’s dreadlocked MC and toaster Astro left the band in 2013 to reunite with Ali and Mickey. The trio have since reclaimed the name UB40 as their own to preserve the integrity of the band’s original signature sound and vision. Reggae Rebel Ali Campbell elaborated: “We feel that we can try and save the legacy of UB40 by touring and playing internationally. I still make reggae for the fans who love and supported us over the years. I still love my original influences like Peter Tosh and Stevie Wonder. I love dub since the music sometimes says more that lyrics can. It’s a great unifier. I still hold myself as being responsible for the continuation of reggae, and that’s what I will do for as long as I live.”
Having recently performed a series of sold-out concerts in Hawaii and celebrated his 57th birthday, reggae ambassador Ali Campbell returns to Southern California with UB40 original members Astro and Mickey Virtue for an exclusive appearance at the OC Fair Summer Concert Series at the Pacific Amphitheatre on July 31st. All reserved seats include free admission to the OC Fair. Purchase your tickets today by clicking HERE. Based on last year’s sold-out shows in Cerritos and San Diego, it is highly advisable to act fast to avoid disappointment.
— Ali Campbell UB40 (@WeAreUB40) February 16, 2016
Italy’s Alex Liddi celebrates 2016 Caribbean Series victory with his family while playing for Mexico
Serie del Caribe, also known as the Caribbean World Series, is the highest baseball tournament at the club level in Latin America and features the champions of Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. Having recently signed a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles, Alex Liddi became the first Italian to play in the Caribbean Series as a member of the 2016 Champion Venados de Mazatlan from Mexico. In his final four games, Liddi went 4-for-17 with a triple and a double.
— LasMayores (@LasMayores) February 8, 2016
Alex Liddi’s wife and daughter helped celebrate with their number one man in the Dominican Republic at the 2016 Caribbean Series. I asked Alex a few questions about his new family.
Roberto: Congratulations on the birth of your daughter, and I see a ring on your finger too so all the female baseball fans are probably crushed now knowing that you are no longer on the market.
Alex Liddi: Yeah, I got married too. Married with a kid. Game over.
Roberto: Well, that’s it, this is everyone’s year. We are all blessed. We have our health and happiness. We have our families. We know how important family is to us. That’s everything to us. We give our left arm in a heartbeat for our families.
Alex Liddi: Yeah, definitely Italian culture is really big on family. It’s definitely the number one spot in my mind and in my life, my family. So I’m really proud of my family, and really proud to be a father and a husband.
Roberto: Yeah, and you have a future softball star that could fall in the shadows of your mom who was a great softball star.
Alex Liddi: Yeah, my mom has been talking about it already, playing softball, but we gotta see. We gotta wait and see.
Roberto: With some baby steps first?
Alex Liddi: Yeah, maybe golf.
Alex Liddi lo hace ver fácil… pic.twitter.com/gLWGyexQKZ
— Toros de Tijuana (@TorosDeTijuana) February 3, 2016
Preserving the Italian American heritage and culture while promoting and inspiring a positive image and legacy of Italian Americans in order to strengthen and empower ties between America and Italy, NIAF and Mike Piazza are second to none. When Piazza was recently voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Joseph Del Raso and John Viola rose to the occasion and spoke on behalf of the National Italian American Foundation’s Board of Directors.
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) January 6, 2016
“We congratulate 12-Time MLB All-Star Michael Joseph Piazza on his election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., that honors those who have excelled in playing, managing, and serving the sport. Mike has been a longtime supporter and great friend to NIAF. Over the last decade, he has attended the Foundation’s Anniversary Awards Galas in the nation’s capital, served as the 2012 Master of Ceremonies at our 37th Anniversary Gala, and spoke at conferences and seminars for young Italian Americans during Gala weekends. In 2014, Mike was chosen to light the Empire State Building in Red, White and Green to celebrate NIAF’s mission and educational programs across the country. We are extremely proud of Mike’s accomplishments as a major league catcher, most notably for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers. His career is distinguished by 12 All-Star selections, 10 Silver Slugger Awards and National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1993. His 427 homers and his on base plus slugging percentage are the highest totals by any catcher in baseball history. We salute Mike as a distinguished Italian American, passionate sports athlete and inspirational role model for all of us to follow. Bravissimo e Auguri Mike!”
Still haven't come back to earth! Honored, humbled, grateful, Thank You, Writers, Huge, Thanks to teams teammates and especially Fans! #HOF
— Mike Piazza (@mikepiazza31) January 7, 2016
Long Beach Records is pleased to announce the release of Perro Bravo’s new 3 on the Tree CD, which is now conveniently packaged with the band’s 2013 Smoking Scorpion Tales CD in order to double your listening pleasure. Perro Bravo is the manifestation of reggae rock/dub innovator Michael “Miguel” Happoldt of Skunk Records, who most music lovers remember as the producer who brought Sublime, Slightly Stoopid and Long Beach Dub Allstars into the limelight. Coupled with seasoned and accomplished musicians Greg “Mudd” Lowther on drums and Mike Long on bass, this power trio has fast become fan favorites in some of the best surfing towns in Costa Rica and California. Find out what the buzz is about and purchase their double CD by clicking HERE.
Perro Bravo will be among the 27 bands performing at the One Love Cali Reggae Fest on February 13, 2016 at the Observatory in Santa Ana. Some of the other headliners at the all-ages festival include Pato Banton, KRS-One, Rebelution, Iration, Pepper, Tribal Seeds and Fortunate Youth. Purchase your tickets by clicking HERE. Perro Bravo recently performed at a benefit concert for former LBDA family members Ikey and Aaron Owens at LA’s El Rey Theatre, where they also backed LBDA. Perro Bravo turns up the heat when backing other artists and welcomes surprise guests onstage on any given night. Since anything can happen live, one must catch the band while on tour or miss a potential once-in-a-lifetime moment.
Italia’s final game in the first round of Premier 12 action is a November 15th battle against third-ranked Cuba, managed by Victor Mesa, one of the greatest baserunners in Cuban baseball history and Olympic gold medalist. Mesa’s Cuban national team beat World Port Tournament host and runner-up the Netherlands in July to place first with teams from Curacao, Japan and Chinese Taipei rounding out the field. Most recently in Premier 12 exhibition games, Cuba split their two games against eighth-ranked South Korea, while Team Italia beat tenth-ranked Venezuela and lost a heartbreaker to twelfth-ranked Mexico.
— Roberto Angotti (@ABLblogger) November 7, 2015
— Roberto Angotti (@ABLblogger) October 29, 2015
— FIBS (@FIBSpress) October 28, 2015
Team Italia calls on St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching prospect Trey Nielsen to make impact in Premier 12
The top 12 nations in the world of baseball will square off in the inaugural 2015 Premier 12 in Japan and Taiwan. In the first round of play, eleventh-ranked Italia faces ninth-ranked Puerto Rico on November 10th, fourth-ranked Chinese Taipei on November 11th, fifth-ranked Kingdom of the Netherlands on November 12th, seventh-ranked Canada on November 14th and third-ranked Cuba on November 15th. A welcome addition to the Team Italia pitching staff is MLB prospect Trey Nielsen from the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The crafty right-hander was originally selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 42nd round of the 2010 Draft out of Salt Lake City’s Skyline High School. Highly-touted as a 2010 Preseason Rawlings honorable mention All-American and two-time first-team all-state player, Nielsen chose not to sign with the Cubbies in favor of becoming a student athlete at the University of Utah. Playing his first two seasons exclusively as an infielder, he returned to the mound during his junior year and made four pitching appearances. Under the guidance of former MLB player and father Scott Nielsen, Trey opted out of his senior collegiate season in favor of a professional baseball career when taken in the 30th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. Postponing his minor league pitching debut due to Tommy John surgery, Nielsen pitched well for the 2014 NY-Penn League Champs State College Spikes by posting a 3-2 record with 49 strikeouts, 14 walks and a 2.50 ERA in 50 1/3 innings of work while holding opponents to just a .201 average.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 29, 2015
Trey Nielsen was among the elite invitees to the 2015 Cardinals Spring Training Early Program Camp. In each of his seven starts for Single-A Advanced Palm Beach Cardinals between May 19 and June 26, he limited his opponents to no more than one earned run. After recording six shutouts this summer, the fast-rising Nielsen moved up to number 19 in the Cardinal Nation’s Top 40 prospect ranking. With the spotlight on him now in the Premier 12, Trey is ready to give underdog Team Italia a big boost with quality starts on the international stage.
After Buchbinder Legionäre Regensburg took the first two games of the best-of-five German national baseball championship series by slim one run margins, Heidenheim Heideköpfe came back strong with a 4-0 shutout in game three and a 12-2 blowout to even the series. With German passport in hand, thirty-year-old Luke Sommer flew overseas from America to join his Heidenheim Heideköpfe teammates for the sold-out decisive game five at Armin Wolf Arena in Regensburg, Germany on October 3, 2015. Vying for a second championship in the German Baseball-Bundesliga, Heidenheim Heideköpfe struck first in the second inning and led 1-0 until late in the heated battle. Both starting pitchers, Buchbinder Legionäre Regensburg’s Mike Bolsenbroek and Heidenheim Heideköpfe’s Peter Sikaras, went deep in the game before the offensive onslaught ensued in the top of the seventh inning and Heidenheim Heideköpfe tacked on three insurance runs to lead comfortably 4-0. Buchbinder Legionäre Regensburg wasted no time in fighting back with a five-run rally highlighted by a three-run home run by Philipp Howard to take a 5-4 lead into the eight inning. Heidenheim Heideköpfe’s Simon Guehring answered back with a homer to even the score. Home team Regensburg looked like they were going to run away with the game when they scored twice to take the 7-5 lead.
MLB.com Blogs Central has announced its July 2015 Latest Leaders, and MLBforLife.com has ranked seventh as the most visited MLB.com Fan Website. Providing a global perspective where baseball meets history and pop culture, DJ and blogger Roberto Angotti has written nearly 150 articles to date since 2011. MLBforLife.com prides itself for giving readers an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at high profile events such as the Asia Series, the European Baseball Championship, the World Baseball Classic and the upcoming Premier 12 in Japan and Taiwan. Working closely with Team Italia manager and LA Dodgers international scout Marco Mazzieri, MLBforLife.com is dedicated to everything Italian. Inspired by Beyond DiMaggio: Italian Americans in Baseball author and former Team Italia interpreter Lawrence Baldassaro, MLBforLife.com strives to continue documenting the Italian American Baseball experience. From former Twin and current Blue Jay Chris Colabello‘s dream to become a major leaguer to Cubs’ slugger Anthony Rizzo‘s battle to beat cancer, MLBforLife.com supports the plight of the underdog–especially the efforts of Team Italia and its nurturing coaching staff (including Marco Mazzieri, Bill Holmberg, Tom Trebelhorn and Mike Piazza). Products of FIBS Italian MLB Academy in Tirrenia, Italian-born and developed players Alex Maestri and Alex Liddi have paved the way for MLB prospects Marten Gasparini (Royals) and Alberto Mineo (Cubs). MLBforLife.com pledges to support them and future prospects with Italian blood unconditionally.