While blowing out the candles on his 30th birthday cake and playing for the Kansas City Royals Double-A affiliate Northwest Arkansas Naturals, Team Italy slugger Alex Liddi wishes for a speedy return to Major League Baseball. The San Remo native made history as the first Italian-born and developed player to make his MLB debut on September 7, 2011 for the Seattle Mariners. Alex Liddi later went on to play in the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers organizations. He is now in his second stint within the Kansas City Royals system.
Nick Leto, Manager of Arizona Operations for the Kansas City Royals, said, “Alex made a great impression on the Royals when we had him. He’s someone that we checked on from time to time, and he almost came back into the organization last summer. Alex is a guy I have known for a long time, and I have kind of admired him from afar. But being in camp with us and getting to see how he goes about his business day-in and day-out... He truly is a special kid. He goes about his business very professionally. He is in here early. He is getting his extra swings in. I mean he does everything the right way. He works hard in the weight room. He is very disciplined in his approach, and he is a very hard worker. He is everything you want in a player for sure. You know Alex has a special gift: a right-handed power gift. I think his makeup fits what we try to do around here. You know the sky is the limit. He is still developing. You know players like that, guys out of Europe and different countries like Brazil and other places in the world. He may be 30, but he is still developing. He hasn’t reached his ceiling as a player, and we’re going to keep trying to push him to the higher levels. That is why we brought him in. I think he can help our major league team. That’s why he’s here. He has a gift of power. You know he is here to potentially impact our major league team…that’s what we’re hoping for. The draw to Alex is his power, professionalism and makeup. He’s a winner. Experience isn’t everything, but Alex has played in a lot professional minor league games. He has major league experience, big time world tourney experience and foreign league experience. Alex has been through a lot of ups and downs while being around a lot of players. He knows what success and failure look like. Alex is a people person who likes to be in the clubhouse. He is a run producer and an excellent teammate. He got a few at-bats here at the end of Spring Training. He continues to make an impression and show the organization, the coaches, and everybody else what we know he is capable of doing."
Appearing in six Kansas City Royals Spring Training games in 2018, Alex Liddi went 2-for-6 with one home before being sent to Northwest Arkansas to begin the season as the team's primary first baseman and designated hitter. The Texas League's third best hitter in homers (20) and fifth highest in slugging percentage (.495), Alex Liddi looks to get the call up from Double-A to the Big Leagues and add some power to the Kansas City Royals lineup when MLB rosters expand from 25 to 40 on September 1, 2018.
Alex Liddi enjoys playing for the Kansas City Royals and knows he needs to prove himself the second time around in the organization. He said, "I like it here because there is a good atmosphere, a good front office, good people, and a good philosophy. So I'm really enjoying my time here. I feel like every year is different because you always have to start from the beginning, even if you had a good year the year before. You have got to still prove yourself the next year. And anytime you change a team, you have to let other people get to know you. Even if you play against them for a long time, they still get to know you in different ways. So it is always fun to be able to play on a different team, and be able to play with a lot of players that you have played against for a long time and later become teammates.
One squad Alex Liddi will always be a part of regardless of his MLB affiliation is Team Italy. He will always make time to play for his country. Immediately after his last minor league game in September of 2014, Alex Liddi boarded a plane to catch up with his Azzurri teammates, who had already begun playing games in the European Baseball Championship in Regensburg, Germany. The jet-lagged Team Italy slugger made his presence felt once he reached the field as he hit a home run in his first 2014 Euros game and followed up with three more homers in his second game against Great Britain. Alex Liddi reminisced, "I was able to catch a flight right away to go and play in Germany with the national team. I never pass on that stuff as I always enjoy playing with the national team, especially to be able to play with all my friends. Anytime you have the chance to wear a jersey that says Italia on your front, it is something different, something special. When you have a chance to play with guys that you've been playing with since you were a kid, it makes it even more special. You feel like a family. All you care is about winning, nothing else is important like stats. It is always a good time. I was really happy that I had a chance to go play for Team Italy."
Alex Liddi continues to be inspirational for young Italian ballplayers like Marten Gasparini, who dreamed of playing professionally as a child growing up. Heralded as the best 5-tool player ever out of Europe, FIBS Academy graduate and MLB prospect Marten Gasparini received a $1.3 million dollar signing bonus from the Kansas City Royals in 2013. Alex Liddi remembers when Marten Gasparini had just begun his journey as a cadet at the FIBS Academy. He recalled, "I have known him from way back. I used to go to the FIBS Academy to work out, and he was there as a younger kid. He always stood out from the other guys in his ability to swing the bat, run, catch and throw. All the stuff, it was over everybody else so you could tell from the beginning that he was going to have success in his career."
With the support of the Kansas City Royals organization, both Alex Liddi and Marten Gasparini are destined for success. Despite a nine-year age difference, both players share the same intensity, tenacity and desire to play Major League Baseball. With a plethora of adoring fans from Europe, the U.S. and south of the border cheering him on, international baseball ambassador Alex Liddi believes he is ready for his return to MLB. Marten Gasparini would like nothing more to join his mentor on the Kansas City Royals. Nick Leto thinks that is a real possibility. He said, “Who knows, maybe they’ll both get to Kansas City together…” Marten Gasparini likes having a fellow Italian ballplayer nearby in the Kansas City Royals organization. He said, "It's a great feeling. I could never speak Italian with anybody before. Now to have somebody that could teach me a lot and be an example for me, even in this organization, is something that could help me a lot. I really look forward to playing with him one day in the World Baseball Classic or the World Cup."
One cannot talk about Italian baseball without mentioning another international ambassador in patriarch Alessandro Maestri. The first Italian-born and developed pitcher signed by MLB has played for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic every year since its inception in 2006. The two-time Minor League Baseball All-Star spent five seasons in the Chicago Cubs system. Considering himself a brother from a different mother, Alessandro Maestri speaks highly of his paisan. He said, "Alex Liddi, of course, is one of my best friends. He’s really family. I feel like his brother." The brotherly love is mutual. Alex Liddi said, "Yeah, me and Alessandro go back in the day since we signed in 2005. We are really close. I enjoy every opportunity I have to play with him on Team Italy. We used to be roommates on the national team. He has always been a really humble guy. He always works hard, and he never looks back. He always tries to be the best. He is still to this day one of my best friends."
Alex Liddi knows that baseball is a game of failure and accepts the challenge every day he competes. He conceded, "This is a tough game, and like everybody says if you get three hits out of 10 and you fail seven times, you are going to be out of favor so you kind of got to deal with it and be mentally strong, knowing you can be capable of being good. So if have one bad day, tomorrow is another day. If you can go 4-for-4 the next day, you don't even remember about those three strikeouts yesterday. I think the big key for me is to just clear my mind. Go home, hang out with my family and see my daughter, and don't even think about that stuff." For now let's hope Alex Liddi has a big 30th birthday celebration with his Northwest Arkansas Naturals teammates, and that his birthday wishes to return to MLB will be granted by the Kansas City Royals in September. Forza #Italia! #LetsMakeItHappen
by Roberto Angotti