Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) and Major League Baseball (MLB) are committed in helping grow the game in Italy. Based on the meeting between high-ranking executives on both sides of the Atlantic at FIBS headquarters in Rome on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, Italian baseball may be on the verge of Major League renaissance.
MLB was well represented by Jim Small, Senior Vice President of International Business, Charlie Hill, Vice President of International Strategy, and Kelhem Salter, Director of Growth and Strategy for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The power trio of MLB executives met with FIBS President Andrea Marcon and General Secretary Giampiero Curti to discuss how they could collaborate on developing the reach and growth of the game in Italy. In addition, MLB pledged to provide technical support and coaching expertise to the Italian baseball federation.
Jim Small is no newcomer to European baseball as he was one the co-founders of Major League Baseball European headquarters in London along with MLB colleague Jim Lefebvre, who advocated early on for the creation of the FIBS Academy in Tirrenia. Having spent several years as the head of the MLB offices in Tokyo before being appointed by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred to be Senior Vice President of International Business, Jim Small is an expert in his field. He said, "Baseball is important in Italy and has a long tradition here. I am sure that there are many aspects on which we can work together to develop our sport, both in making it known to the very young and in providing support and expertise at the highest level."
Jim Small was accompanied by Charlie Hill and Kelhem Salter, both of whom were instrumental in the successful launch of the London Series, a two-year arrangement for Major League Baseball to play a total of four regular season games in London, England. The first two games were played between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees on June 29–30, 2019. The inaugural games were a massive sold-out success as nearly 120,000 tickets sold in 30 minutes. The next set of games are scheduled for June 13–14, 2020, when the St. Louis Cardinals will host two games against the Chicago Cubs.
FIBS President Andrea Marcon was pleased with the outcome of the initial discussion in Rome with the MLB executives. A follow-up meeting is expected at MLB headquarters in New York prior to the Italian American Baseball Foundation Gala Dinner Gala at Giando on the Water in Brooklyn on December 4, 2019. "I already knew," said FIBS President Andrea Marcon, "that the arrival of Jim Small in the key position for MLB International Business would mean a new beginning for our collaboration. I was sincerely impressed by his plan, and the enormous possibilities that have been put on the table at this first meeting. There are many ideas and programs that await us in the coming months. We will immediately begin to work on these initiatives, and we will keep in constant contact along the way. We look forward to meeting again in New York when we return the U.S. for the fourth annual Italian American Baseball Foundation Dinner."
by Roberto Angotti