The Italian American Baseball Foundation at the Federazione Italiana Baseball & Softball (FIBS) Convention 2019

Apr 12, 2019 308

For the 2nd straight year the Italian American Baseball Foundation was honored to send a representative to the Federazione Italiana Baseball & Softball (FIBS) Convention 2019 in Riccione, Italy. Following Bobby Valentines successful 2018 visit, the IABF sponsored MLB & FOX Sports host JP Morosi to represent the IABF in Riccione on January 19-21, 2019. The FIBS Convention hosts some of Italy's top clubs, managers, coaches, umpires and is a vital part of the Federations recognition and growth. Below is a synopsis of JP's visit that he wrote.

Riccione is one of northern Italy’s preeminent tourist destinations, known for its nightlife on beaches along the Adriatic during the summer months. It’s also where, on a January weekend, the up-and-coming Italian baseball journalist Kevin Senatore paused during a pranzo of Prosciutto di Parma to discuss with a friend how he might procure Fernando Tatis Jr. in a keeper fantasy baseball league.

For those who might wonder about the depth of Italy’s interest in baseball and softball, the 2019 CON3 convention was an overwhelmingly positive display. More than 1,000 attendees were drawn to the PalaRiccione convention center for the annual event, including Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) executives, youth- and senior-level coaches, players, umpires, and fans from throughout the country.

The crowd was equally passionate and knowledgeable about baseball. The Emilia-Romagna region, to which Riccione belongs, is notable as the geographic heart of the Italian Baseball League and cradle of the sport in Italy.

During my visit there, three central themes became clear:

* Instructors and stakeholders in Italian baseball and softball bring seriousness and enthusiasm to the study of their craft.

* The past year offered much to celebrate for baseball and softball in Italy, including European championships in the U12 Baseball, U19 Softball and U22 Softball divisions.

* FIBS is focused intently on preparing a senior baseball and softball teams to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Italian national baseball team will attempt to do so on home soil during the European qualifying tournament in Bologna and Parma from Sept. 18 to 22, following the European championship in Bonn and Solingen, Germany, from Sept. 6 to 15.

Audiences in Riccione listened intently to guest speakers and asked intuitive questions, with bilingual interpreters on stage to ensure that all involved were understood. Sal Butera, the highly respected Blue Jays executive and former Major League catcher, complimented one man’s question about whether youth baseball coaches should hold pregame meetings with their catcher and starting pitcher. (Sal said they should — and then allow pitchers and catchers to learn the game’s nuances by taking responsibility for pitch-calling once the game begins.)

Recently retired All-Star reliever Jason Grilli and his father, former Tigers and Blue Jays right-hander Steve Grilli, spoke emotionally about the life of an Italian-American baseball family — from Jason’s lonely rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery to Steve’s proudest moments as a father. Max Marchi, the Bologna-based analyst for the Cleveland Indians, offered an insightful and at times lighthearted history of baseball’s statistical revolution. Softball coaches benefited from the contemporary experience of highly regarded softball coaches Nikki Palmer (UC Riverside) and Danielle Spaulding (former Long Beach State assistant, now a pitching instructor in Las Vegas).

I’m confident in assuring my fellow IABF board members that the commitment to baseball and softball that I witnessed in Riccione matches our own. I will never forget one particular moment during the CON3 awards program: Maristella Perizzolo, a member of the national team coaching staff, was visibly overcome by emotion when she was announced as FIBS Softball Coach of the Year. Future growth is on everyone’s mind, as evidenced by the federation’s investment in competing internationally beginning at the U12 level.

During the on-stage talk show at CON3, I conveyed to FIBS officials and the general audience that the IABF is ready to assist the federation’s efforts in the coming year, particularly in the effort to qualify for Tokyo 2020. Players with Italian passports who are not on MLB 40-man rosters are eligible to play on the national team in the crucial September tournament. If you know of an Italian-American minor leaguer or college player with interest, please contact Joe Quagliano, who is in constant dialogue with Marco Landi, the FIBS head of marketing and communication. There’s still time to obtain a passport for those who meet the eligibility criteria, but candidates should be mentioned to Joe in the near future in order to begin what is often a lengthy process.

Olympic qualification is of paramount importance to FIBS, because of the prestige and funding associated with the Games. Italian manager Gilberto “Gibo” Gerali has more restrictions in choosing his roster than, say, Kevin Senatore does with the fantasy baseball he was pondering that weekend in Riccione. But many involved with Italian baseball, on and off the field, view Tokyo 2020 as a realistic ambition. We should, too.

By Jon Paul Morosi

SOURCE: Italian American Baseball Foundation

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