Once inseparable as part of the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays’ pitching rotation and again in 2019 while providing relief out the Jay’s bullpen, Sam Gaviglio and Joe Biagini have picked up where they left off three years ago together after being summoned by Team Italy manager and National Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza to lead the Italians to success in the 2023 World Baseball Classic. Former Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said, “Joe and Sam are two of my all-time favorites. Both did a tremendous job for us, better than anyone expected. Both are first class individuals also and proud Italians.”
For the Biagini family, playing for Team Italy is close to the heart since relatives hail from Lucca. Rob Biagini, a former San Francisco Giants pitching prospect, helped Team Italy win the 1979 European Baseball Championship. He later led Parma to the 1980 European Champions Cup title. During a recent pre-WBC workout in Scottsdale, Arizona, Joe Biagini said, “Italy is in our soul.”
The road to MLB for Biagini was not so easy. After redshirting and playing one year at the College of San Mateo, the talented right-handed pitcher transferred to UC Davis, where he made 13 appearances out of the bullpen and went 3-1. Biagini was chosen by the San Francisco Giants in the 26th round of the 2011 MLB draft after his redshirt sophomore season. He was later selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2015 Rule 5 draft.
Biagini made his MLB debut on April 8, 2016 when he pitched a perfect ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox and posted his first career strikeout facing David Ortiz. The 2016 Toronto Blue Jays made to it to the American League Championship Series. During his six postseason appearances against Baltimore, Texas and Cleveland, Biagini threw 7.1 scoreless innings with six strikeouts. He was the only rookie to start and finish the season with the team and as a result received the 2016 Blue Jays Rookie of the Year Award.
Former Toronto first base coach Tim Leiper remembers that 2016 season like it was yesterday. He said, “Joe got better as the season progressed. He was like new found money. The Blue Jays would have never reached the postseason without him.. He is his own guy who can be light-hearted, but when it comes to pitching he is all business.”
Biagini was traded by Toronto to the Houston Astros along with Aaron Sanchez and Cal Stevenson in exchange for Derek Fisher on July 31, 2019. He spent the remainder of the 2019 season and part of the 2020 season with Houston before signing with the Chicago Cubs on December 17, 2020. Biagini was last seen pitching in MLB on October 3, 2021 when picking up the win after throwing three scoreless innings of relief against the St. Louis Cardinals.
In a twist of fate, Joe Biagini and Sam Gaviglio actually went head-to-head in a pitching matchup at Safeco Field on June 9, 2017 when the Seattle Mariners hosted the Toronto Blue Jays. M’s starter Sam Gaviglio made his MLB debut just one month prior and held the Jays to two runs on six hits with three walks and five strikeouts in six innings of work. Trailing 2-1 with little offense against Blue Jays starting pitcher Joe Biagini, Seattle finally rallied for two runs in the bottom of the seventh and eventually won 4-2. Biagini reflected on the experience and said, “Too bad we were not playing in the National League at the time so we could have actually faced each other (in the batter’s box).”
Although it may be Joe Biagini’s first time pitching for Team Italy in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, Sam Gaviglio returns to the Azzurri squad after his WBC pitching debut against Venezuela at Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Guadalajara, Mexico on March 11, 2017. He threw four scoreless innings against an explosive offense powered byMLB All-Stars Jose Altuve, Martin Prado, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Gonzalez, Victor Martinez, and Salvador Perez before surrendering two runs in top of the fifth inning. Despite an impressive start, he did not receive a decision in the Team Italy 11-10 extra-inning loss to Venezuela.
Gaviglio was first drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2008 in the 40th round but did not sign in favor of playing ball at Oregon State University instead. However, he eventually signed with the St. Louis Cardinals after being selected in the fifth round of the 2011 MLB draft. Gaviglio was traded to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Ty Kelly on November 20, 2014. He made 12 appearances (including 11 starts) for the 2017 Seattle Mariners before being claimed off waivers by the Kansas City Royals, for whom he made another four appearances (including two starts) before the end of the 2017 season.
Gaviglio was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays on March 21, 2018. Used primarily as a starting pitcher during the 2018 season, the Ashland, Oregon native worked exclusively out of the Toronto bullpen in 2019 when he was the MLB leader in innings pitched (95.2). Former Blue Jays’ coach Tim Leiper said, “I have followed Sammy since the day I worked with him during the 2013 Arizona Fall League. His character is second to none. He is so upbeat, ultra prepared, super dependable and a solid teammate. Sammy anchored the Blue Jays pitching staff.”
He was last seen in the big leagues when making four relief appearances for the Jays in 2020. Gaviglio signed with the SSG Landers in the Korea Baseball Organization in 2021 and compiled a 6-4 record in 15 starts. While pitching in Asia, he noticed a different style of baseball being played. Gaviglio said, “The game is placed at a much faster pace. It’s more like small ball and about manufacturing runs.” With the 2023 World Baseball Classic taking place in Taichung, Taiwan for Team Italy, he hopes his recent experience playing in Asia will give the Italians an advantage. For Biagini and Gaviglio, winning Pool A against Cuba (March 9th at 6 am ET), Chinese Taipei (March 10th at 6 am ET), Panama (March 10th at 11 pm ET) and Kingdom of the Netherlands (March 12th at 7 am ET) means everything.
Former Toronto coach and current Team Canada coach Tim Leiper concluded, “The World Baseball Classic (WBC) provides the opportunity to bring them (Biagini and Gaviglio) together again. Both are versatile pitchers who have been in high-leverage positions so they can start or pitch relief, which is great for Team Italy. There are not many pitchers around who have the same skill set. They can compete and are capable of showing how good they are in the WBC to put themselves on the map again. The international competition commands respect.”
Selected in the 17th round of the 2017 draft out of University of Oklahoma by the Miami Marlins, right-handed reliever Vincenzo Aiello played in professional baseball for four seasons (2017-21) in the Marlins and White Sox organizations. He recorded 11 wins and a 2.91 ERA in 93 outings in his stints between Rookie League and Double-A. In the summer of 2021, he was placed on the injured list while playing in Winston-Salem and elected free agency at the end of the year. Most recently the 28-year-old Aiello signed with his hometown team, the Atlantic League’s Staten Island FerryHawks. He made 18 appearances on the mound and allowed 19 earned runs in 22 innings.
24-year-old right-handed pitcher Glenn Albanese Jr. was selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the 15th round of the 2021 draft out of University of Louisville. In 38 appearances at the High-A and Double-A level, the Illinois native and 6’7” reliever compiled a 1-2 record (3.34 ERA) with five saves and 68 strikeouts in 62 innings pitched. Relative TJ Galidari played in the NHL from 2010-16.
Alex Bassani is one of the pitching veterans in Italian baseball. Having grown up in Bologna with multiple experiences in the Italian Baseball League since 2013, Bassani broke out in 2017 in Novara with a strong season at the plate and on the mound. The 32-year-old hurler later moved to Rimini (2018) and back to Bologna (2019-present), where he won three consecutive Italian championships and the European Champions Cup. He has represented Team Italy in 20 games to date. Bassani made his Azzurri debut in 2017 at the European Baseball Series and has been called upon in every international competition ever since. He earned the save in the 2021 European Baseball Championship bronze medal game against Spain and was the winning pitcher against Curacao in the 2022 Haarlem Week tourney.
Joseph Carlo Biagini will represent Team Italy for the first time at the 2023 WBC. The 32-year-old right-handed pitcher was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 26th round of the 2011 draft. The Toronto Blue Jays picked him up on the waiver wire during the 2015 Rule 5 Draft, and the California native made his MLB debut on April 8, 2016. Working out of the bullpen as an effective setup pitcher during the regular season and also pitching in the postseason, Biagini was named 2016 Blue Jays Rookie of the Year. He became a fan favorite and made two TV appearances on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon. Biagini was traded to the Houston Astros alongside Aaron Sanchez and Cal Stevenson for Derek Fisher on July 31, 2019. He had brief stints with Houston in 2020 and with the Chicago Cubs in 2021. However, he returned to the Blues Jays organization in 2022 and compiled a 4-2 record (3.46 ERA) in 30 appearances including five starts for Triple-A Buffalo.
The 26-year-old Parma native competed in the 2008 Little League World Series while on the first-ever Italian squad (Emilia Little League) to play in the international youth competition and a decade later on March 20, 2018 became the first Italian-born student-athlete to play for the College World Series-bound University of Texas Longhorns. Right-handed pitcher Matteo Bocchi signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs on June 13, 2019 and reached as high as AAA playing for the Iowa Cubs. During his two seasons in the minors, he compiled a 4-3 record with one save in 37 appearances (3.90 ERA. 94.2 IP, 109 K).
Philadelphia-born Ryan Castellani was selected out of high school in the 2nd round in of the 2014 draft by the Colorado Rockies. He was named Baseball America High-A All-Star while pitching for the Modesto Nuts in the California League. Despite some injuries along the way, the right-handed pitcher made his MLB debut for the Colorado Rockies on August 8, 2020 and remained in the starting rotation for the remainder of the season. He managed to make only one start for the Rockies in 2021 before signing with the Oakland Athletics on March 11, 2022. Castellani pitched only 2.2 innings in three appearances for the A’s during the 2022 season.
TIAGO DA SILVA
A Team Italy WBC veteran pitcher having played in the 2009, 2013 and 2017 editions, 37-year-old Tiago da Silva signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays on January 30, 2015 and pitched at Single-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire before returning to the Mexican Leagues. He was awarded the 2014 Mexican League Reliever of the Year while pitching for Delfines de Ciudad del Carmen. The Brazilian-Italian pitcher led San Marino to back-to-back Italian championship titles in 2021 (when he won Italian Baseball Series MVP) and 2022.
San Marino-born pitcher Alessandro Ercolani signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021. He is the very first player to sign an MiLB contract from the small country located in northwest Italy with just over 33,000 citizens. The right hander has since made 20 Rookie ball appearances and posted a 2.77 ERA in 48.2 innings of work with 59 strikeouts. The 18-year-old prospect is the youngest member of the Team Italy WBC roster after recently playing in the U18 World Cup and European Baseball Championship.
Left-handed pitcher Nick Fanti makes an encore appearance at the 2023 WBC after making his Team Italy debut at the 2017 WBC in Jalisco, Mexico, where he threw a scoreless inning of relief against Puerto Rico. The 26-year-old New York native was selected in the 31st round of the 2015 draft by the Philadelphia Phillies out of high school. He was named to the FCL Post-Season All-Star team in 2016 and a Baseball America Low-A All-Star in 2017. Fanti pitched four seasons in the Philadelphia Phillies minor league system and reached High-A in 2018 prior to a stint in the Australian Baseball League playing for the Sydney Blue Sox. Multiple injuries resulted in a Tommy John surgery, and a shoulder injury kept him off the field during the 2022 season.
Selected in the seventh round of the 2016 draft by the Seattle Mariners, the Brooklyn-born and Staten Island native Matthew Festa made his MLB pitching debut on July 14, 2018 and subsequently made the 2019 Mariners’ Opening Day roster. After Tommy John surgery, he once again made the Mariners’ Opening Day roster in 2022 when the 29-year-old reliever made 53 regular season appearances (2-0, 2 SV, 4.17 ERA, 64K, 54 IP) and two postseason appearances (0-0, 2.70 ERA, 2 K, 3.1 IP against the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros).
Right-handed pitcher Sam Gaviglio returns to Team Italy after making his Azzurri debut during the 2017 WBC when he started the second game of the tournament against Venezuela (4.2 innings, 2 runs allowed). The 32-year-old Oregon native was selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He subsequently spent four seasons in MLB (11-18 record, 4.88 ERA and 296.2 innings in 98 games pitched) playing for the Seattle Mariners (2017), Kansas City Royals (2017) and the Toronto Blue Jays (2018-20). Gaviglio has since signed minor league contracts with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers. He spent the 2022 season pitching for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers and compiled a 6-4 record (6.34 ERA) in 17 appearances including nine starts.
Vying for an MLB comeback after knee surgery, pitcher Matt Harvey will represent Team Italy in the 2023 WBC. Thanks to his Italian mother, the 33-year-old right-handed pitcher will be in the Italian rotation after his 2022 season between High-A and Triple A (8-1, 3.72 ERA in 13 starts). Born in New London, Connecticut and selected in the first round of the 2010 draft by the New York Mets out of University of North Carolina, Harvey pitched six seasons for the Mets. He reunites with Mike Piazza, who managed Team USA in the World Futures Game in 2011 when Matt picked up the save for the Americans. Among his highlights of his first three seasons, he broke a franchise record for a debuting pitcher with 11 strikeouts against Arizona in 2012. Harvey was named MLB All-Star in 2013 and started game five of the 2015 World Series against the Kansas City Royals. From 2019 to 2021, he pitched for the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles. During his illustrious MLB career, Harvey compiled a 50-66 record with a 4.42 ERA and 867 strikeouts in 966.1 innings pitched.
Joe LaSorsa is a 24-year-old New York native and a promising left-handed pitcher who was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in 18th round of the 2019 draft out of St. John’s University. He will begin his fourth professional season by competing in his first international tourney with Team Italy in the 2023 WBC. He made 39 relief appearances and one start for a total of 73.1 innings between High-A and Double-A during the 2022 season when he compiled a 7-3 record with 8 saves (2.33 ERA) and 87 strikeouts in 73.1 innings of work.
Pitcher Braxton Lorenzini will make his Team Italy debut in the 2023 WBC. Selected by the San Diego Padres in the 33rd round of the 2015 draft out of California’s West Hills College, the 27-year-old Colorado native and right-handed reliever played six seasons in the minor leagues between 2015 and 2021. He made 94 appearances and registered a 11-9 record (6.17 ERA) with 139 strikeouts in 143.1 innings as a part of the San Diego Padres (2015-17) and the Colorado Rockies (2018-21) organizations.
Related to undefeated American boxing legend Rocky Marciano, pitcher Joey Marciano has the same fighting spirit on the mound. With a late start to his baseball career playing for the first time as a freshman in high school, he made up for lost time and became a pitching sensation at Southern Illinois University. Selected in the 36th round of the 2017 draft by the San Francisco Giants, Joey Marciano had high hopes to pitching professionally. Despite being named 2017 ACL Post-Season All-Star and 2018 ACL Post-Season All-Star, he retired from the game. Marciano returned to the Giants organization in 2021 after the pandemic-induced year off. With a stronger pitching repertoire and a solidified relief role, he moved up to Double-A and Triple-A in 2022 and compiled a 4-2 record with 9 saves (4.12 ERA) and 62 strikeouts in 59 innings of work.
After four seasons in the NCAA’s Atlantic 10 Conference pitching for the George Mason Patriots, Brian Marconi signed a minor league contract on June 12, 2019 with the Philadelphia Phillies, his hometown organization. Forced to miss the entire 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, he broke through High-A, Double-A and Triple-A in 2021 as a dominant closer. Marconi earned the Double-A Northeast League Reliever of the Year Award and named to the All-Star team. The 25-year-old compiled a 4-7 record (4.40 ERA) with 18 saves and 68 strikeouts in 57.1 innings of work during the 2022 season in between Double-A and Triple-A stints.
32-year-old right-handed pitcher Vinny Nittoli began his professional career after being selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 25th round of the 2014 draft. He eventually ventured in the Indy League and pitched for St. Paul Saints as a reliever and starter. Nittoli later signed minor league contracts with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018 and the Toronto Blue Jays in 2019 before returning to the Seattle Mariners organization in 2020. He made his MLB pitching debut for the M’s on June 23, 2021 against the Colorado Rockies. Nittoli spent time in Triple-A pitching in the Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays organizations before returning to MLB in 2022 for two appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies. On January 12, 2023, he signed a minor league contract with the Chicago Cubs.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2019 draft by the St. Louis Cardinals out of UC Irvine, Andre Pallante emerged as one of the best pitchers for the Redbirds in 2022. The right-handed pitcher made his MLB debut on March 10, 2022 and a total of 47 appearances during the regular season including 10 starts for the Redbirds in 2022 with a 6-5 record (3.17 ERA) in 108 innings pitched. He also made one Wild Card Series appearance against the Philadelphia Phillies. Pallante will make his Team Italy pitching debut in the 2023 WBC.
Selected in the 40th round of the 2017 draft by the Chicago Cubs out of Lipscomb University in Nashville, right-handed pitcher Jeffrey Passantino played three minor league seasons before joining the Pittsburgh Pirates’ organization in 2021. The 27-year-old Florida native got as high as Triple-A during the 2022 season and compiled an overall 3-2 record (4.47 ERA) in 22 minor league appearances with 42 strikeouts in 41.1 innings pitched. He recently pitched for Gigantes de Carolina in the Winter League in Puerto Rico and allowed just one run in 11.2 innings pitched.
Nicolò Pinazzi was born and raised in Milan where he played for local club Milano 1946. The 23-year-old left-handed pitcher signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020. For the past two seasons, he pitched in the Rookie League and compiled a 5-2 record (3.95 ERA) with 98 strikeouts in 57 innings pitched), earning him a promotion to Single-A Daytona at the end of the 2022 season.
A product of the FIBS Academy, MLB pitching prospect Claudio Scotti signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 1, 2016. After two years in the Pirates organization, he returned to pitch for Team Italy during Haarlem Baseball Week and the Super 6 in 2018. Scotti enjoyed success when signing with UnipolSai Bologna and leading the team to two consecutive Italian championship titles in 2019 and 2020 as well as winning the European Champions Cup in 2019. After pitching seven scoreless innings with 16 strikeouts for Team Italy in the 2021 U23 European Baseball Championship in Verona and after two starts at the European Championships in Turin in 2021, he signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets on October 2, 2021. Scotti spent the 2022 season in the Rookie League and made five appearances including two saves.
Mitchell Anthony Stumpo signed a minor league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 2, 2019. The 26-year-old North Carolina native and right-handed pitcher nearly retired twice after suffering an arm injury in high school and not being drafted after a successful collegiate career at Guildford College. He got his chance for redemption and quickly ascended up the ladder being named 2021 MiLB Organization All-Star Stumpo helped the Triple-A Reno Aces win the 2022 Pacific Coast Championship with 45 appearances and a record of 1-2 (3.53 ERA) with eight saves and 51 strikeouts in 43.1 innings pitched.
Vin Timpanelli signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds on August 18, 2020. The Staten Island, New York native played most of his college career at New Jersey’s Ramapo College as a catcher but during his senior year he started throwing some bullpen sessions. After the Covid-plagued 2020, Timpanelli focused on pitching and was subsequently picked up as a free agent by the Cincinnati Reds. After spending his time at High-A Dayton in 2021 and part of 2022, he advanced to Double-A Chattanooga. During his 2022 campaign, he made 32 appearances and compiled a 1-1 record (5.10 ERA) with 2 saves and 79 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched.
The 23-year-old right-handed pitcher signed a minor league contract with Milwaukee Brewers on June 9, 2017 and made his Rookie League debut the same year. He made his Team Italy debut in the 2017 U18 World Cup. Michele Vassalotti earned Pioneer League Pitcher of the Week in 2019 and later won Player of the Game honors twice for the Brisbane Bandits during the 2021 Australian Baseball League season. Pitching for the Brewers’ Single-A Carolina Mudcats in 2022, he compiled a 9-2 record (2.64 ERA) with seven saves and 56 strikeouts in 47.1 innings.
STEPHEN WOODS JR.
Selected in the sixth round of the 2013 draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, right-handed pitcher Stephen WoodsJr. chose to attend SUNY Albany and play collegiate ball. He was selected again in the eighth round of the 2016 draft by the San Francisco and signed a minor league contract on June 22 2016. On December 20, 2017, Woods was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays along with Denard Span, Christian Arroyo and Matt Krook as part of the deal that brought Evan Longoria to San Francisco. After sitting out during the 2018 season due to injury, he pitched 86 innings at the HIgh-A level and secured a sub 2 ERA before being selected as the fourth overall pick by the Kansas City Royals in the 2019 MLB Rule 5 Draft. After 2020 Spring Training, Woods was dropped off the 26-man roster and sent back to the Tampa Bay Rays. He was later traded for and acquired by the Kansas City Royals. Woods reached the Triple-A level in 2022. During his minor league career, he has appeared in 116 games including 52 starts and has complied a 23-19 record (3.58 ERA) with 352 strikeouts in 339.2 innings pitched.
Gibo Gerali brings over three decades of coaching and managerial experience to the IABF All-Stars. The former scout for the Colorado Rockies is respected internationally for his ability to find athletes with raw talent and assist them to reach their full potential so that they may one day become professional ballplayers. After serving as bench coach for Team Italy in the 2007 World Cup, Parma manager GiboGerali led his squad to the 2010 Italian Baseball League Championship title. His winning ways continued as he also helped Team Italy claim the 2010 and 2012 European Baseball Championships.
GiboGerali later assisted Team Europe in finding success in the 2015 Asia Winter League. After serving as bench coach for Team Italy in the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classic, he took over as manager for Marco Mazzieri and later gave way for current Azzurri manager Mike Piazza. A former pitcher for Crocetta, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Astra, and Collecchio during his playing days. Gibo Gerali has since proven himself as a tried-and-tested leader internationally as one of Europe’s most respected managers.
Manager Gibo Gerali has selected nine Italian prospects to participate in the IABF Bay Area Collegiate Baseball Games. Parma Clima pitcher Edoardo Acerbi hopes to lead the IABF All-Stars to victory in the USA. Having compiled a 2-0 record with two saves in 12 appearances last year in Serie A competition while pitching for the reigning European Baseball Champions Cup champion Parma Clima, the strong right-handed pitcher tipped off his talent early on at the youth level when he won the Italian national cadet title in 2014 with Oltretorrenteand represented Europe-Africa with Emilia Romagnain the 2014 Senior League World Series.
Edoardo Acerbi was awarded the Sant’Ilario Prize for Sport by the Parma Sports Veterans Union in 2015, The following year hewon again with Oltretorrentewhen capturing the Italian national U21 championship title and later helped the Team Italy U18 squad take the silver medal in the 2016 European Baseball Championship. Edoardo Acerbi was invited to participate in the 2017 International Stars Showcase in Arizona and as a result received a scholarship to play baseball at IowaState University in 2019. IABF All-Stars manager Gibo Gerali said, “Edoardo Acerbi is a pitcher that has yet to show his true potential. He is a strong pitcher who possesses a fastball that reaches 90 mph in addition to a nasty curveball. With this competition in the San Francisco Bay Area, we will be working on his control and his confidence so that he can develop into an elite international competitor.”
Parma Clima teammate Francesco Pompani is currently beingscouted by severalU.S. colleges. If he performs well with the IABF All-Stars, he is destined to get a scholarship. Having represented Europe-Africa as a member of the Italian team from Emilia Romagna at the 2018 Senior League World Series, Francesco Pompani has already played internationally.
One of 17 Italian prospects invited to the MLB Elite European Development Tournament in conjunction with the 2019 London Series, Francesco Pompani has been on the radar of international MLB scouts for some time. He has played for Team Italy on several occasions and will remain a member of the Azzurri squad for years to come. Gibo Gerali said, “Francesco Pomponi is in his first year as a full-time pitcher for Parma Clima. He will work out of the bullpen as a reliever. His fastball, slider and changeup have opened up some eyes in Italy. He also is a very good middle infielder with soft hands.”
A familiar name on Team Italy, Riccardo Flisi played in the 2014 U15 Baseball World Cup and the 2017 U18 Baseball World Cup, Most recently, he helped the Azzurri win the bronze medal in the 2021 U23 European Baseball Championship by going 4-for-14 (.286 batting average) with two RBI. Riccardo Flisi was one of the best hitters of the 2021 Collecchio squad with a .363 batting average. Gibo Gerali said, “Riccardo Flisi is a speedy outfielder that grew up as a catcher but a hip injury slowed down his development. He is fun to watch and has a good arm.”
Sebastiano Catellani represented Europe-Africa playing for Emilia Romagna at tthe Junior League World Series (2018). Most recently he was instrumental in Oltretorrente winning the Italian U18 national title when hitting .286 overall through the regular season and pitching five scoreless innings with six strikeouts against Academy of Nettuno in the Final Four playoffs on October 2, 2021. Sebastiano Catellani will be a key component of the Team Italy U18 pitching staff. Gibo Gerali said, “Sebastiano Catellani is a left-handed pitcher and outfielder. He made a vast improvement last year when he had a big part in winning the U18 national title. Sebastiano will benefit from the USA trip because he needs more experience playing games in order to gain the necessary composure to be dominant.”
Representing Team Italy in the U18 World Cup, Andrea Pasotto demonstrated his versatility in the outfield or coming off the bench as a pinch hitter. He has since produced good offensive numbers in Serie A playing for Collecchio. In 2020 he hit .255, while he put together a .293 batting average in 2021. Gibo Gerali said, “Andrea Pasotto is a solid outfielder who is ranked among the best prospects in Italy. He has spent the last two seasons in the top Italian league and has showed he belongs.”
Catcher Marco Ragionieri had a breakout year in 2021 playing for Oltetorrente (.269 batting average) and Parma Clima. Currently a member of the Team Italy U18 squad, he might very well follow in the footsteps of Alberto Mineo behind the plate and land a professional baseball contract. Gibo Gerali said, “Marco Ragionieri is a young catcher who is very well built. He really needs these games in America so that he can get more innings under his belt. Marco has huge potential and has already been tracked by several MLB organizations.”
Tommaso Nani was a member of the Team Italy U18 squad in the 2021 European Baseball Championship in Macerata and Montegranaro. He comes off a strong season playing for Codogno with a .328 batting average. Gibo Gerali said, “Tommaso Nani is the only player on this trip to America that is not from Parma. He is a versatile infielder who has been part of the last Team Italy U18 squad. With an excellent work ethic, Tommaso is improving his baseball skills every single day.”
Pitcher Riccardo Bigliardi has made a name for himself in Italy. He went 4-0 with two saves and an impressive 0.00 ERA in 24 innings of work during the 2020 season for Crocetta. Riccardo Bigliardi returned last year with more success sporting a 2-1 record with four saves and a 2.36 ERA.
Having represented Europe-Africa playing for Emilia Romagna in the 2018 Senior League World Series, he has showed the world his talent. Riccardo Bigliardi pitched for Team Italy in the U18 European Baseball Championship and been invited to workouts with the Azzurri U23 squad. Gibo Gerali said, “Riccardo Bigliardi is a lean and mean lefty with huge room for improvement. He is very competitive and has become a promising pitching prospect.”
Tommaso Adorni has represented Europe-Africa playing for Emilia Romagna at the Little League World Series (2016), the Junior League World Series (2018) and the Senior League World Series (2019). Baseball Factory commented that he had plus bat speed, used the whole field and swung with authority. He was one of 17 Italian prospects invited to the MLB Elite European Development Tournament in conjunction with the 2019 London Series.
After representing Team Italy in the 2021 U18 European Baseball Championship, Tommaso Adorni showed some speed and power at the plate with seven extra-base hits (four doubles, one triple and two home runs) playing for Collecchio. Gibo Gerali said, “Tommaso Adorni is a very talented outfielder despite his young age. He has had the chance to participate at several international tournaments. Tommaso is among the top three prospects in Italy…”
The IABF San Francisco Bay Area Collegiate Games begin on April 20, 2022 and continue through April 27, 2022. The IABF All-Stars will compete against Holy Names University, San Jose State University, Sonoma State University, San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. For a complete schedule with game times and locations, click HERE.
IABF All-Star manager Gibo Gerali will be assisted by American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer John Noce, who coached more than 365 baseball players at College of San Mateo (CSM) from 1962-1995. With a 772-412 (. 652) record at CSM over 31 seasons, John Noce retired having sent 72 players into professional baseball and eight to MLB. The IABF All-Stars will practice at the College of San Mateo in preparation for the IABF Bay Area Collegiate Games. Pitching coach Rob Biagini, father of MLB pitcher Joe Biagini and coaching coordinator Matt Brown will round out the IABF All-Stars coaching staff.
The IABF will honor the IABF All-Stars, their coaching staff and prominent Bay Area Italian American college baseball coaches Brad San Filippo(San Jose State University), Tony Ragusa (Sonoma State University), Tony Schifano (San Francisco State University) and Craig Gianinno (University of San Francisco) at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club on Sunday, April 24, 2022 beginning at 6 pm with complimentary Italian appetizers followed by an exclusive Meet-and-Greet with the visiting Italian players, former Team Italy and MLB players and current Italian American Bay Area coaches. For tickets to this special event, click HERE.
The writing is on the wall just as it was in 2012 when former UC Davis Aggie pitcher Marco Grifantini and catcher Tyler LaTorre helped Team Italia capture its second consecutive European Baseball Championship by defeating a talented Kingdom of the Netherlands squad and again in 2013 when both California natives played in the World Baseball Classic. With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, two additional UC Davis alums–Toronto Blue Jays reliever Joe Biagini and free agent infielder Daniel Descalso–could potentially give manager Marco Mazzieri a boost if the Italian American players are added to the Team Italia roster. One could make a strong case for Biagini’s participation should fellow Jays bullpen paisan Jason Grilli be playing in his fourth consecutive World Baseball Classic for Team Italia. Joseph Carlo Biagini‘s Italian family bloodlines run deep with relatives in Lucca. His Italian great uncle, Carlo Biagini, was a merchant marine there. Joe’s father, Rob Biagini–who spent time playing ball in the Giants organization from 1981 to 1982–also played abroad in Italy with former teammate Chris Colabello’s father, Lou Colabello. However, it might take an executive order from new Canadian-born Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) president Andrea Marcon to get Biagini onboard with Team Italia in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
#BlueJays RP Joe Biagini on @FAN590 re whether he’ll play for Italy in WBC: “I’ve got a call with the Italian president right after this.”
After redshirting and playing one year at the College of San Mateo, right-handed pitcher Joe Biagini transferred to UC Davis, where he made 13 appearances out of the Aggies bullpen and went 3-1. He was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 26th round of the 2011 MLB draft after his redshirt sophomore season. On December 10, 2015, Biagini was taken by the Toronto Blue Jays from the San Francisco Giants in the 2015 Rule 5 draft. On April 8, 2016, Joe made his MLB debut when he pitched a perfect ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox and posted his first career strikeout facing David Ortiz. In his six appearances during the 2016 postseason against Baltimore, Texas and Cleveland, Biagini threw 7.1 scoreless innings with six strikeouts. He was the unanimous choice for rookie of the year at the recent annual Blue Jays player awards. The 26-year-old reliever was the only Jays rookie to go wire-to-wire with the team, a major accomplishment for a Rule 5 draftee. Starting out the season as a middle-relief fixture for manager John Gibbons, Joe gained the trust of the veteran skipper who later assigned him to late-inning duty. Biagini has since been the center of attention in the media as a result of being in the audience at a taping of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. During the show, Fallon passed Biagini in the audience and attempted to high-five him along with other audience members, but the popular celebrity TV host missed Biagini’s hand. During the November 18th episode, Fallon stated that he had taken criticism on Twitter for botching the high-five and brought Biagini out on stage briefly to complete their high-five.
Daniel Descalso was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the third round of the 2007 MLB draft following his junior season at UC Davis. Descalso made his MLB debut with the Cardinals on September 20, 2010. Despite the 30-year-old Italian American utility man only having a .242 career average, Descalso is much more important on the field as he has played every position but catcher and center field. After five successful seasons–including a 2011 World Series title–in St. Louis, Descalso signed with the Colorado Rockies on December 16, 2014. Rockies manager Walt Weiss recently said, “Daniel has a great pedigree, he’s played in the postseason, played in the World Series. And that goes a long way in that clubhouse. Guys understand how hard it is to get there. He’s a winning player, he’s got a winning attitude, he’s a leader… so, his value goes way beyond the stat sheet.” When asked if Descalso might make a good coach or manager in the future, Weiss replied: “Yeah, absolutely. I think he’s definitely cut from that mold. He’s one of those guys that has obviously been a student of the game. He’s a smart player. He played at a small school, UC Davis, and has probably always had to prove himself and overachieve to some degree but he’s put together a nice Major League career.” Descalso was the second UC Davis Aggie player to ever reach MLB in 2010 and the first to win a World Series ring in 2011. Before becoming the Aggies’ second-highest MLB draft pick, Daniel hit a team-best .397 as a junior in 2007, with 22 doubles, three triples, four home runs, 53 runs scored and 44 RBI. With infielder Nick Punto now retired and serving as the Team Italia third base coach, the versatile Daniel Descalso could prove to be a valuable defensive replacement and offensive spark plug in the World Baseball Classic.
For the past two years, Tyler LaTorre has been working as an assistant baseball coach at San Francisco State University under head coach Tony Schifano–who spent eight years as the assistant coach at UC Davis, his alma mater. Like Schifano, LaTorre is a former Aggies all-star. Tyler played at UC Davis from 2003-06, earning all-conference honors as a senior when he hit a team-high and career-best .363 with 37 runs and 32 RBI. He drew a team-best 28 walks and led the Aggies with a .451 on-base percentage. LaTorre was signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Francisco Giants on May 29, 2006 after a five-year UC Davis career. The former catcher played 10 seasons in the minor leagues–including nine of them in the San Francisco Giants organization–when he caught the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong before signing a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2015. During his pro ball career, LaTorre played a total of 452 minor league games during which he posted a .241 career average with 60 doubles, 14 home runs, 131 RBI and 155 runs scored. Yet, some of Tyler’s most memorable games included his time playing for Team Italia in the 2012 European Baseball Championship when he nearly won MVP tourney honors after going 14-for-28. Eight of his 14 hits were for extra bases–including six doubles and two home runs. LaTorre absolutely raked at the plate, knocking in nine RBI and scoring nine times during the international tournament. “We had one goal and that was to repeat as European champions,” said LaTorre. “It was awesome.” He also enjoyed serving as backup for Team Italia catcher Drew Butera in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The 33-year-old Italian American started against Team USA and went 1-for-4 with a walk and one run scored. LaTorre’s Italian roots trace back to his great-grandparents in Italy. It took two and a half years for him to become eligible to play for Team Italia as a dual citizen and Italian passport holder after thorough research, documentation and tedious paperwork authenticating his Italian lineage.
Having spent his 2007-08 seasons as a reliever in his final two years of college at UC Davis, Marco Grifantini did not register on MLB’s radar and was not drafted. Unfazed by pro baseball’s cold shoulder, Marco’s passion for the game grew stronger and he chose a path less traveled. Upon securing dual citizenship and an Italian passport, Grifantini was given the opportunity to pitch for Cariparma Parma in the Italian Baseball League and Team Italia in the 2009 World Cup. Marco helped his 2010 Parma squad secure its first national title since 1997 after going undefeated all season and pitching four scoreless innings to pick up the save in the decisive game seven of the Italian Baseball League Championship. Later that year pitching for Team Italia, Grifantini notched another important save in relief to allow the Azzurri to dethrone the Dutch and win the 2010 European Baseball Championship. In addition, Marco got the win in games against South Korea and Taiwan in the 2010 IBAF Intercontinental Cup to assure Team Italia a bronze medal. Team Italia won its second consecutive European Baseball Championship in 2012 thanks in part to the relief work of Marco Grifantini. Prior to pitching for Team Italia in 2013 World Baseball Classic, Grifantini made 53 appearances over four seasons for Cariparma Parma in the Italian Baseball League and posted a 19-4 record with a 1.89 ERA. His impressive performance against the Los Angeles Angels in a 2013 pre-WBC exhibition game in Tempe, Arizona led MLB scouts to scratch their heads in disbelief that Grifantini had been undrafted out of UC Davis five years prior. Immediately following the 2013 World Baseball Classic, Grifantini signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. In his only season playing pro ball for the Single-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays in 2013, Marco started six games and went 3-2 with a 5.21 ERA. The proud 31-year-old Italian American has since returned to his home in Redding, California. Grifantini said, “I am now starting my career in a local hospital as a pharmacy technician, and I plan on getting married in the summer. As for baseball, I have helped train a few youngsters and plan on coachinglocally to give back to a sport that gave me so much.”