Converging on Carmine and Sons Pizzeria and Restaurant in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday December 6 night was a who’s-who of the international baseball community. Current Major League Baseball players, former MLB players, former MLB managers, international players, sports media personalities, baseball executives, and baseball fans broke bread together at the third annual Italian-American Baseball Foundation fundraising dinner.
Former MLB player and former MLB manager Bobby Valentine (2017’s IABF Guest of Honor) estimated that the support, over the years, has grown by about 70%. IABF’s mission is gaining traction. Why is he back for a second consecutive year? “That we could possibly help spread the word of baseball to the other side of the pond, to make kids here who have Italian heritage appreciate baseball a little more, I’m happy to be apart of it.”
John Andreoli, Seattle Mariners outfielder, “jumped at the opportunity” to attend, for the first time, IABF’s dinner. He said: “I think it’s a fantastic organization… There are some great people in this room that are trying to build baseball in the country of Italy, and with the next Olympics coming up and having the chance to qualify for that will be another opportunity. To help support and raise money for that, I think it’s an awesome night.” Andreoli played for the Italian National Team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Drew Butera, MLB catcher, said “It’s been an honor for the last two [WBCs]” playing for the Italian National team. His continued support of the IABF is “an easy ‘yes’” for him “because promoting baseball, itself, is huge. Especially globally, it’s a great way to support Italian baseball and support the motherland.” About the annual IABF dinner in Brooklyn, he said: “It’s such an awesome cause. I love the camaraderie it brings: it gets us excited for Italian baseball. You see faces you haven’t seen in a while and you eat some great food. It’s just an overall great time.”
One of this year’s honorees included: 2018 IABF Guest of Honor John Franco (member of the
New York Mets Hall of Fame) and 2018 IABF Executive of the Year Jon Morosi (sports media personality). While Morosi is a first-time dinner attendee, he is “a proud dual-citizen of the US and Italy and [he] want[s] to help to make sure that [he] fulfill[s his] obligations to both countries to help grow the game in both places.” What better way than with IABF?
John Franco, who was an integral part of IABF’s journey to Italy this past summer, described it: “we went over to Italy, did some clinics, had a great time, got know the Italians even better…I think the kids are very receptive. They’re like sponges: they love the game and they want to learn… They ask a lot of questions [and] they want to make sure they did everything right…That’s what we’re trying to do: we’re trying to help them with the equipment and help them with the facilities.” Franco also announced at the dinner was a new scholarship set up for Italian-American male and female athletes. On being honored, Franco replied: he was “honored to be honored”. Valentine added, that through the IABF, “we’re recognizing [Franco] as being one of the great Italian-American baseball players of all time.”
One of IABF’s focuses is to expand and grow the game of baseball in Italy. New York Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo realizes the gravity the organization carries: “In order for the game to keep thriving and getting better… we’re going to have to get the world into it. I think Italy is really untouched and I think this is a great opportunity for us to expand the game and bring more talent into it.”
One of the most talented players on the Italian National team’s roster is captain Alessandro Vaglio. While recognizing the honor of being at the fundraising dinner in calling it “priceless”, he will bring a message from Brooklyn to his teammates in Italy: “Keep working hard, keep dreaming, keep chasing for the target: we want to make the Olympic games, and we want to make the World Baseball Classic in 2021.” With IABF’s direction, those goals are attainable.
by Danielle McCartan