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Former New York Yankee prospect and current Seattle Mariner secret weapon Pat Venditte will be fondly remembered by the Staten Island Yankees on August 19th when the Yanks Class A Short Season affiliate host Pat Venditte “Switch-Pitcher” Bobblearms Giveaway Night. Venditte made his pro debut for the “Baby Bombers” against the Brooklyn Cyclones on June 19, 2008. With two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the ninth inning, a switch-hitter came to the plate representing Brooklyn’s last hope. He entered the batters box batting right-handed, so Venditte switched his glove to his left hand. The hitter then decided to bat lefty, so Venditte switched his glove back to his right.
After a prolonged delay switching sides at the plate, the hitter was ordered to bat right-handed. Ambidextrous pitcher Venditte then struck out the batter on four pitches to end the game and secure a Yankees win. Two weeks later on July 2nd after consulting with the Major League Baseball rules committee, the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation announced what has become known as the Venditte Rule: A switch-pitcher has to declare which hand he is going to use first. It ultimately afforded opposing managers the luxury of knowing the pitcher’s hand.Selected by the New York Yankees in the 20th round of the 2008 draft, the Omaha native spent seven seasons in the Yankees’ farm system before signing a minor-league deal with Oakland. After an impressive 1.55 ERA with 40 strikeouts at AAA Nashville, the proud Italian American made his MLB debut with the A’s on June 5, 2015. He finished the season with a 2-2 record and a 4.40 ERA. Toronto claimed Venditte off waivers during the off-season, and the 31-year-old was traded to Seattle on August 6th.
Roberto: You have a knack of being a winner and landing on winning teams. Do you truly have a winning spirit and the Midas touch?
John Mariotti: A championship team is made up of a specific group of players. Each player brings something different to the table in order to fit the mold and make up what is to be a championship team. My hard work and dedication toward baseball, I believe, are the traits that Pat Scalabrini (manager of Québec Capitales) and Marco Mazzieri (manager of Team Italy) saw, which made me one significant piece of the puzzle for their team. I am the type of player that never wants to let my teammates down and always striving to be the best.
John Mariotti: I got a call in October of 2011 by Team Italy in regards to playing in the European Championship and WBC. Immediately we began the citizenship process and in August I was on my way to Italy to prepare for the European Championship in Holland.Roberto: Did you have a choice to play for Team Canada instead of Team Italy?
John Mariotti: I did not have the option to play for Team Canada.
Roberto: Will it be difficult playing against some of the players you grew up with in Canada while pitching for Team Italy in the 2013 World Baseball Classic?
John Mariotti: I know a couple of players on Canada’s team, John Axford, Chris Leroux and Jonathan Malo. When I was in college, I hit with Joey Votto for two years when I would come home for Christmas break. It will be an awesome experience to play on the same field as these guys, but I think that it’s understood that when its game time, all feelings are set aside.
Roberto: Does Team Canada have an edge because they have seen you pitch before or do you have an advantage because you know their Achilles’ heel?
John Mariotti: In baseball, I believe the biggest advantage is experience. Most of the players on Team Canada are or have played in the Big Leagues. Nonetheless, I believe in my talent and so do the Italians and I am going to work hard so that I am able to compete at my best in order to help us win.
Roberto: Who were some of the coaches that have inspired you?
John Mariotti: Murray Marshall (Team Ontario Baseball) was one of the coaches who gave me a shot to play elite baseball. His passion to coach and love for the game was an inspiration not only to me but to all of his players. In college it was both coach Darren Mazeroski (Gulf Coast Community College) and coach Gary Gilmore (Coastal Carolina University) that had a great effect on my career. Battling elbow injuries for two years, both coach “Maz” and “Gilly” believed in my ability and that I was going to perform.” They were two coaches that saw and believed in my talent and gave me every opportunity to succeed.
I owe them a lot.
John Mariotti: Ron Wolforth at Pitching Central in Houston, Texas, in a nutshell, gave me back what I have left of my baseball career. After suffering an injury that ultimately resulted in being released and what looked like the end of my career, I went to see coach Wolforth in Houston as a last hope. What I didn’t know was that hope wasn’t an option. He was going to get me back to playing, that’s how good he is. He is the pitching guru. Working with coach Wolforth got me back into professional baseball: two Can-Am Championships, one European Championship with Team Italy, a Phillies Spring Training invite and now a chance play in the World Baseball Classic. He is a big reason for my success. Pat Scalabrini was another inspiration in my playing career. After being released by the Winnipeg Goldeyes, coach Scalabrini gave me a shot to prove myself.
I did not disappoint. The two years of winning two championships with Québec was the most fun I’ve had playing ball in a long time. It was the support and belief by coach Scalabrini that really helped me get to this point, and I can’t thank him enough. These coaches were big inspirations for me.
Roberto: What are your best pitches that you have come to depend on?
John Mariotti: I throw a sinker, changeup and slider. My sinker and changeup are my two plus pitches. As a sinkerball pitcher, my job is to keep the ball on the ground and let the defense work. My changeup is a pitch that will keep hitters honest on the sinker and is one of my out pitches in certain situations.
Roberto: How good are the Italians? What are some of the strengths of the team?
John Mariotti: The Italians are very good; we have a lot of talent on our team and a great coaching staff. Aside from that, I believe it is the passion, teamwork and the will to win of the Italians that is going to help us achieve success.
John Mariotti: Bill is one of the more knowledgeable coaches I’ve had the pleasure of playing for. Bill and I spent a lot of time together over in Europe, and he taught me a lot about pitching. He has totally changed my mentality as far as how I approach hitters. His knowledge and ability to scout teams and prepare the pitching staff with information about our opponent is impressive. He is very passionate about teaching and coaching players.
He is a key component to the coaching staff and the success of the Italians.
Roberto: How about a few words about Team Italy hitting coach and future Baseball Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza? How has he helped you and the pitching staff?
John Mariotti: Mike’s is a very knowledgeable person. His experience and knowledge for the game will definitely be a big factor in helping us succeed. Aside from this, he brings a certain character to the team, one that keeps the atmosphere on the bench very light and pressure free. He is a very knowledgeable person, who’s always thinking. I think Mike has helped us pitchers by preparing the catchers. Mike prepares our catchers for competition both mentally and physically and I think that by doing so, it only helps make the pitchers better.
Roberto: With the injection of more MLB-affiliated players participating in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, can Team Italy compete in Pool D and advance?
John Mariotti: No doubt. The Americans are the favorite in our pool, but as far as the rest of the teams go (Canada and Mexico) I think we have a really good shot at advancing to the second round.
Roberto: Who else would you have liked to see join Italy in the World Baseball Classic?
John Mariotti: One name that came to mind that I thought might be on the team was Mike Napoli. I’m pretty sure he is of Italian decent.
George Bush and Condoleezza Rice’s spoof of the classic Abbott and Costello Who’s on First skit, a hilarious chat between Costello–who plays a peanut vendor named Sebastion Dinwiddle, and Abbott–manager Dexter Broadhurt of the mythical St. Louis Wolves, has placed the former White House all-star comedy duo into the eternal Hall of Shame. In honor of the original Abbott and Costello’s tribute to the great game of baseball, let’s make sure everyone knows everyone else’s name on Team World in the Australian Baseball League (ABL) All-Star Game, which will be televised live on Wednesday, December 21st at 4 pm (Perth, AU Time) by Fox Sports Australia as well as ESPN Star Asia and later replayed on MLB Network in the U.S.A. at 1 pm (EST).
Based on the number of players on Team World who have some sort of oddity attached to them, this squad of international all-stars should be called “Team Novelty”. National heros in their respective homeland, Taiwan’s Chin-lung Hu and Korea’s Dae-Sung Koo are well-respected in Asia. Yet in MLB, they are extraterrestrial beings. Whether poking fun at his name Chin-lung Hu or playing on words in Hu’s on First, Hu has received more notoriety for everything but his skills. As shortstop and leadoff hitter for the Adelaide Bite, his very serious .291 batting average is no laughing matter.
Koo’s claim to MLB fame came in the May 2005 Subway Series matchup between the Mets and Yankees at Shea Stadium. The Korean lefty was called from the bullpen mid-game. In his first at bat against Randy Johnson, Koo was so nervous that he initially did not swing the bat. Everyone–including broadcaster Tim McCarver–discounted him as an easy out. Instead, the slugger Koo emerged when least expected and rocketed a shot over the outfielders’ head to the wall for a stand up double. Jose Reyes layed down a sacrifice bunt to advance Koo to third, but seeing nobody covering home plate he continued to run for the score. Sliding head first and beating the tag, the crowd roared “KOO” and later the sold-out stadium gave him a standing ovation. He appeared in 33 games as a Mets middle reliever and posted a 3.93 ERA with 23 strike outs in 23 innings of work in 1995.
Being the first Italian born player signed by MLB in 2006, pitcher Alex Maestri is also considered by many as another one of baseball’s novelties. As as starter and relief pitcher in the Chicago Cubs minor league system for five seasons, Maestri racked up a 24-17 record with a 3.75 ERA and 19 saves. A two-time minor league All-Star, the right hand throwing pitcher put away hitters with his evasive slider–which was once voted as the best slider thrown by anyone in the entire organization. Representing his native Italy in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC), Maestri dominated hitters. In the 2009 WBC, Maestri held opponents scoreless in his two plus innings–during which he got Miguel Cabrera to ground out on a fielder’s choice and Magglio Ordonez to strike out. His moment of glory came on April 1, 2009, when he made his preseason MLB debut against the Oakland A’s during Cubs Spring Training in Phoenix. Manager Lou Pinella summoned him out of the bullpen. Maestri struck out Orlando Cabrera and then he sized up against slugger Jason Giambi–who managed to squeak out a single through the hole. MLB All-Star Matt Holliday was caught looking at a third strike slider for the second out, and Eric Chavez went down swinging at his Italian slider in the dirt to end Maestri’s almost perfect outing.
Despite the fact that Yohei Yanagawa has fast become a fan favorite Down Under, Aussies will have to bid him Sayonora after charting in the Top 7 pitchers of the Australian Baseball League with a 2.52 ERA in 35.2 innings. Second in the league in strike outs (43), the Japanese reliever turned ABL starter of seven games had great control as demonstrated by his 1.23 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). Stretching out to pitch seven innings this past week, the 25-year-old right-handed hurler struck out nine and issued no walks. After the ABL All-Star Game, Yohei Yanagawa will return to Japan.
Currently in his second ABL season, 23-year-old Rinku Singh has recorded one win and one save with a 1.59 ERA out of the Adelaide Bite bullpen in 11.1 innings–while allowing just seven hits, one walk and striking out ten. Now an international hero for winning the Million Dollar Arm competition, the first-Indian born pitcher to win an American professional baseball game posted a 2.45 ERA for the Pittsburgh Pirates as a minor leaguer in 2011. Now the subject of a upcoming movie produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Singh has gone Hollywood, and the world will soon know of his life story from the slums of India to the MLB diamonds.
The international all-stars will feature a strong artillery of former and future MLB players from the U.S.A. including Jason Hirsh (Houston Astros/Colorado Rockies), Mike McGuire (Philadelphia Phillies), Alex Burg (San Francisco Giants), Brian Burgamy (Philadelphia Phillies/San Diego Padres), Dominic Ramos (Boston Red Sox), Mychal Givens (Baltimore Orioles), Ty Morrison (Tampa Bay Rays), Tyler Collins (Detroit Tigers), Denny Almonte and James McOwen (Seattle Mariners).
The 2011 Team World All-Star roster will also carry many Japanese players from the Nippon Professional Baseball League including Yusei Kikuchi (Seibu Lions), Hiroshi Katayama (Rakuten Eagles), Fumikazu Kimura (Seibu Lions), Yamashita Ayatsugu and Kenta Imamiya (SouthBank Hawks). Remember to mind your manners when cheering on your favorite player, no matter Hu…
While most believe the World Series marks the year end of professional baseball and the beginning of a long drought without America’s favorite pastime, the true diehard fans get a weeklong reprieve as some of Major League Baseball’s best players will go head-to-head against a very talented Chinese Taipei national team beginning November 1st. MLB Network has announced its plans to televise the highly-anticipated 2011 Taiwan All-Star Series, five contests between the MLB All-Stars and the Chinese Taipei national team. The games will be played in three different cities in the Republic of China–November 1 at XinZhuang Stadium in New Taipei City, November 3 & 4 at Intercontinental Stadium in Taichung, and November 5 & 6 at Cheng-Ching Lake Stadium in Kaohsiung. With the exception of a 2 pm(PST) start time on November 5th, first pitch is scheduled for 6 pm(PST) every night. MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger and Larry Bowa will call the games.
“Major League Baseball is excited to take another important step in showcasing our great game to Taiwan, continuing our objective to bring baseball to fans throughout the world,” said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig. “We are pleased that many fine players will represent Major League Baseball when they meet the top talents of Taiwan.” The series is made possible through a partnership between MLB and the Major League Players Association in an effort to promote the game of baseball internationally and showcase talent from around the world.
The Republic of China, better known as Taiwan, has a wealth of talented baseball players. Los Angeles Dodgers Hong-Chih Kuo was expected to pitch for the Chinese Taipei national team, but instead upon the recommendation of his Los Angeles-based team doctor skipped the series to undergo surgery on his left elbow. However, there is still Washington Nationals Chien-Ming Wang–the highly-touted Taiwanese-born pitcher once known for his dreaded sinkerball and near 100 mph velocity–who is slated to be among the Chinese Taipei national team’s pitching rotation. Upon his arrival in Taipei last week, Wang commented that it had been a long time since he had played with Taiwanese players but expressed joy in being in his home country of Taiwan. His MLB comeback after two years of rehabilitation from injuries was described by Nationals manager Davey Johnson as “a remarkable season” for Wang, who posted a 4-3 record and a 4.04 ERA. In his final four starts of the season, Wang struck out 16 and walked none in 23 2/3 innings pitched. The Nationals have set a three inning or 60 pitch limit for Wang according to Taiwan national team manager Chen Wei-Cheng, who has yet to decide which game Wang will pitch. Part of the Chinese Taipei national team’s secret arsenal includes Detroit Tigers lefty reliever Ni Fu-Te, the Taiwanese-born southpaw who posted an impressive 2.61 ERA as a rookie two years ago. Although Ni was confined to AAA ball this season, he did get the opportunity to shine at MLB Spring Training Camp, where he allowed only four hits and one earned run in his 10 innings of work.
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy will manage the MLB All-Stars. Bochy’s coaching staff will be comprised of his current Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, Giants bullpen catcher Billy Hayes, Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, Tampa Bay Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton along with Rays equipment and home clubhouse manager Chris Westmoreland. The MLB All-Stars include: pitchers Colin Balester, Trevor Bell, Bill Bray, Phil Coke, Ross Detwiler, Dillon Gee, Jeremy Guthrie, LaTroy Hawkins, Mark Melancon, Felipe Paulino, Ramon Ramirez, Rich Thompson and Jose Veras; catchers Drew Butera, Jeff Mathis, and Ronnie Paulino; infielders Erick Aybar, Robinson Cano, Michael Morse, Ryan Roberts, Pablo Sandoval, Danny Valencia and Ty Wigginton; outfielders Emilio Bonifacio, Curtis Granderson, Logan Morrison, Josh Reddick and Andres Torres.
Perhaps the biggest proponent of the upcoming Taiwan All-Star Series is the Washington Nationals Mascot, Screech. The furry white eagle was chosen as the mascot for the series and will accompany the MLB All-Stars to Taiwan. This week Screech was on the set of a short film shot in Washington, DC to promote the international baseball games. Screech dazzled the crowd–including the Ambassador of Taiwan, Jason Yuan–by speaking and whistling in Mandarin Chinese and eating with chopsticks. The short film of Taiwan culture, featuring Screech, can be viewed on the Washington Nationals official website (washingtonnationals.com) and the mascot’s blog (screech.mlblogs.com).