Past and present MLB players and executives as well as a traveling delegation from Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) celebrated everyting Italian and embraced the challenges that lie ahead for the 501(c)(3) charity, the Italian American Baseball Foundation (IABF), at the second annual IABF fundraising dinner at Carmine & Sons Restaurant and Sports Bar in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday night, December 7, 2017. The festivities began at 6:30 pm when spirits began to flow and specially-prepared appetizers by respected restaurateur and IABF co-founder Carmine Gangone were offered to early birds. Italian Tenor Sal Spatola dazzled those in attendance with his artistic excellence to add to the warm homestyle ambiance at Carmine's Restaurant. Conversations in Italian and English could be heard interspersed with laughter and holiday cheer in the intimate atmosphere.
Wayne Randazzo, New York Mets announcer, took control of the evening as the emcee and quickly summoned FIBS president Andrea Marcon to the podium. The festive crowd sat attentively in anticipation of hearing from the Canadian-born Italian president. Having met with MLB executives earlier in the day at their New York City headquarters, Andrea Marcon was invigorated with energy prior to taking the stage. He first thanked IABF co-founders Joe Quagliano, Carmine Gangone and Frank Catalanotto. The FIBS president spoke eloquently while honoring and recognizing four outstanding individuals who have contributed greatly to Italian baseball and softball. President Marcon saluted FIBS and Italian American Baseball Foundation vice president Fabrizio De Robbio. Then he praised new Team Italy manager Gilberto Gerali before paying tribute to two of Team Italy's finest players: Brandon Nimmo of the New York Mets and three-time NCAA All-American Softball All-Star Erika Piancastelli.
Newlyweds Brandon and Chelsea Nimmo were beaming with radiance as they satisfied everyone's requests for selfies, while Erika Piancastelli with parents Pier Piancastelli and Loredana Auletta visited with MLB royalty and adoring fans alike with elegance and grace. FIBS president Andrea Marcon captivated the attention of even the most persistent paparazzi when his compelling speech shifted gears from photo opportunities when guests of honor stood up when acknowledged to a serious call-to-action for Americans of Italian descent to join together in helping Team Italy qualify for the 2020 Olympics. During his speech, a genuine sense of Italian pride and optimism spread throughout the room as it was clear to those listening that anything was possible for Team Italy. Marcon ended his inspirational message proclaiming: "Let's make it happen," which officially kicked off a three-year #Letsmakeithappen hashtag campaign which will inevitably lead up to the Tokyo, Japan Olympic games.
With last year's inaugural sold-out IABF event honoring National Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, Carmine’s Restaurant and Sports Bar in Brooklyn set out to make this year’s festivities better than ever with guest of honor Bobby Valentine. Currently serving at athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, Valentine is committed to help the Italian American Baseball Foundation's mission of supporting youth baseball in Italy, building and maintaining ball fields, awarding student-athletes with scholarships and financial aid, purchasing uniforms and equipment as well as organizing pitching, fielding and hitting clinics with MLB instructors under the guidance of FIBS. International baseball ambassador and IABF executive Bobby Valentine will travel to Italy in 2018 as he will be the special guest speaker at the annual Italian Baseball Softball Convention and will also be conducting baseball clinics while abroad.
The sold-out fundraising dinner honored Brooklyn Cyclones assistant general manager Gary Perone as the 2017 IABF Baseball Executive of the Year. The proud Staten "Italy" Island native reminsced when the Mets' 2011 number one draft pick Brandon Nimmo played for their Single-A franchise in Brooklyn and exuded confidence that other Italian American players like him will follow his path by representing Team Italy in international competitions. Between the entertaining color commentary from emcee Wayne Randazzo, many of the luminaries present were acknowledged including: Mets baseball legend Lee Mazzilli and his son, L.J. Mazzilli, a promising infielder for the Mets Triple-A affiliate, as well as New Yorks favorites John Franco and JIm Leyritz.
Those fortunate enough to obtain tickets to this stellar event were not disappointed by the first-class production of Mint Pros and IABF president Joe Quagliano. Coupled with warm hospitality and delectable cuisine that IABF treasurer Carmine Gangone and the Carmine & Sons Restaurant staff provided on this unforgettable night in Brooklyn, the second annual IABF dinner was an Italian baseball dream come true. Working in tandem, the Italian American Baseball Foundation and FIBS are about to change the landscape of the playing field. With goals and aspirations of being the lone European representive among the six qualified baseball nations to participate in the 2020 Olympics, Team Italy is destined for greatness. #Letsmakeithappen
by Roberto Angotti