BY: Marc Cardillo
The Italian American Baseball Foundation returned to Italy for a second time. This time they put on five clinics in five towns. The trip was organized by FIB'S Marco Landi and IABF President Joe Quagliano.
Former MLB player and MLB hitting coach, Mike Pagliarulo, and IABF board member and former FIBS player Mark Cardillo put on clinics for nearly 300 kids in a ten day span. This was Pagliarulo’s first trip ever to Italy.
Their first day in Rome, Quagliano, Pagliarulo and Cardillo attended a college showcase organized by FIBS at Rome’s baseball academy field, Aquacetosa.
Also there were University of Maine's head coach, Nick Derba and varsity head coach of Xaverian High School, Frank Del George.
Nearly twenty-five 16-18 year old kids were in attendance to display their talents in hopes of getting a shot at college baseball. One stand out pitcher was Lemba Della Salandra, a 18 year old left handed pitcher who hit 85 on the radar fun.
After their one day in Rome, the IABF crew traveled to Catania, Sicily where two clinics where scheduled. Their first stop in Sicily was in Paterno, a small village located just at the south base of Mont Etna outside of Catania. An impressive 40 boys and girls were in attendance. During the three hour clinic, Pagliarulo worked with the infielders and hitters in the cages, while Cardillo worked with the outfielders and threw batting practice. After the clinic, our group were treated to a nice cool homemade glass of latte di mandola (almond milk) which is a Sicilian tradition after games. On their way home, the President of the Paterno Baseball program, took the group for a tour of downtown Catania, where they went for a nice walk to see the city center and the mysteriously famous Elephant Fountain.
Their second stop was in Messina, where again, nearly 40 boy and girls showed up to participate. They were picked up at their hotel by the President of Messina's baseball program Nino Micali who took them for a tour of downtown Messina. Together, they could see the Straits of Messina and the short distance between Sicily and Italy begged them to ask, “when are they going to build a bridge?”. Again, Pagliarulo and Cardillo worked with the hitters and fielders while Quagliano worked with the pitchers in the bull pen.
The Nino Micali showed the group the dormitory he has created inside the baseball stadium that could easily fit up to two youth baseball teams. While the field already holds international tournaments, the goal is for Messina baseball to grow and host more baseball and softball tournaments there which will bring more recognition to the area.
On the first day back on the mainland, the trio traveled to Viterbo, a small town about ninety minutes north of Rome. After a great clinic with the children, a special visit by the town's Mayor, Giovanni Arena, made this a very worthwhile stop. Before leaving Viterbo, the Vice President of the baseball program took the group on a tour of city center medieval Viterbo, which has a history of Italian film making due to its beautiful piazzas and also well-kept underground village. One fun fact, Viterbo is where the captain of the Italian national team, Alessandro Vaglio, was born and raised.
After Viterbo, the IABF crew traveled to Grosseto to put on their second to last clinic. The crew was met by former Italian National team manager, Marco Mazzieri at their hotel. Since his retirement from managing the national team, Mazzieri has been working on developing a youth program in Castiglione della Pescaia where he took the IABF group to see the field and have lunch. Mazzieri has already hosted several baseball and softball tournaments at the ball park and hopes to host more to continue the development of baseball and softball in the area and beyond.
Later that day, the crew put on another three hour clinic. One of the participants was the son of the National teams' trainer, Giovanni Natale. Natale’s son possessed great body control for a 12 year old and could hit to all parts of the field. He definitely has a bright future in baseball
Their last and final stop was in Florence, which was a homecoming for Cardillo where he used to play middle infield back in 2008. The IABF crew was impressed with Florence's set up as they have a fully built stadium that could sit a couple thousand people and overlooks the surrounding hills of Florence where the beautiful town of Fiesole sits atop. The stadium is located in Campo di Marte, right next to their Serie A soccer team's stadium, and is a 5-10 minute drive from city center Florence.
Throughout the entire trip, The IABF was impressed to see the talent of kids and their desire to play. We met with many parents as well as program directors who all shared their love and passion for baseball leaving no doubt as to the IABF's continued support and guidance.
SOURCE: Italian American Baseball Foundation
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