Mike Piazza during the 2006 World Baseball Classic

Mike Piazza becomes new Team Italy manager

After meeting with Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) President Andrea Marcon on November 11, 2019, National Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza has agreed to serve as the manager of Team Italy. A press conference in Rome is scheduled on November 29, 2019 to formally introduce the new Team Italy skipper and his staff to the Italian and international media.

Known as the greatest offensive catcher of all-time, Mike Piazza replaces former Team Italy manager Gilberto "Gibo" Gerali, who resigned shortly after the Azzurri baseball squad failed to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo after a less than desirable outcome in the WBSC Europe-Africa Olympic Qualifier in Bologna and Parma. Mike Piazza is no newcomer to the Italian National Baseball Team. He played for Team Italy in the inaugural World Baseball Classic (WBC) in 2006. Mike Piazza later served as the Italian National Baseball Team hitting coach in the 2009 World Baseball Classic and the 2009 IBAF Baseball World Cup in Nettuno, Italy.

As the keynote speaker at the 2009 Coaches Convention and the instructor of several clinics at the FIBS Baseball Academy, Mike Piazza is credited for transforming Team Italy into a European baseball powerhouse. His winning touch led the Italians to back-to-back European Baseball Championships in 2010 and 2012 to reclaim the elusive Euro title, which had not been brought home to Italy since 1999. Mike Piazza was also influential in recruiting fellow Italian American Anthony Rizzo to join Team Italy in the 2013 World Baseball Classic in Phoenix, Arizona and in helping the Italian baseball squad advance to the second round of the WBC in Miami, Florida after victories over Mexico and Canada.

Mike Piazza was recognized for his invaluable contributions to Team Italy when he was the 2016 Guest of Honor at the inaugural Italian American Baseball Foundation Gala Dinner and FIBS Fundraiser in Brookyln, New York. Having since relocated his family residence to Italy, Mike Piazza has continued to be a strong advocate and proponent of the growth and development of Italian baseball. FIBS President Andrea Marcon is confident new skipper Mike Piazza possesses all the necessary leadership skills to put Team Italy on top again and to start an Italian baseball renaissance.

12-time MLB All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner Mike Piazza is undoubtedly the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history. Always a fan favorite, Mike Piazza’s rise from 62nd round pick (1,390th overall) in 1988 to National League Rookie of the Year in 1993 eventually led to him to become a 2016 National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee. In addition, Mike Piazza was inducted into the New Yorks Mets Hall of Fame, and his #31 Mets jersey was retired. His 396 career home run mark in baseball history as a catcher (427 home runs overall) puts him in a league of his own as the position's all-time leader for home runs and on-base plus slugging percentage.

Although Mike Piazza is best known for his outstanding performance as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-1997) and New York Mets (1998-2005), Mike Piazza’s 16-year career included stints with the Florida Marlins (1998), San Diego Padres (2006), and Oakland Athletics (2007). While hitting over 400 career home runs with a .300-plus lifetime batting average and never striking out more than 100 times in a season, Mike Piazza belongs to an elite group of nine other players including Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, and Chipper Jones.

Mike Piazza loves his Italian ancestral roots. His grandfather, Rosario Piazza, immigrated to the United States from Sciacca, Sicily when he was 11 years old. Mike Piazza's grandmother was born in America, but her family was originally from central Italy. His grandmother and grandfather met at Holy Savior church in Norristown, Pennsylvania, the same town where family friend and baseball mentor Tommy Lasorda was born.

Mike Piazza earned the nickname “baseball’s ambassador to the Vatican” after the 2002 season when he went on the MLB Goodwill Tour at baseball academies in London, Berlin, and Rome. During his visit in Italy, he was invited to meet the Pope John Paul II and was blessed by the holy papal father who quickly earned sainthood posthumously. A commited man of faith, Mike Piazza serves as a member of the Catholic Athletes for Christ Advisory Board. The following year, he and his father visited Sciacca, the town on the southwestern coast of Sicily where his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Giuseppe Piazza was born in 1789. Mike Piazza said,“I felt like a duck going back to water. I just related. I could just feel it. I just felt Italian.”

Back in the United States, Mike Piazza is an official spokeman for the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame and has been an active supporter of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). Over the last decade, Mike Piazza has attended several NIAF Anniversary Awards Galas in Washington, DC, has served as the 2012 Master of Ceremonies at the 37th Anniversary Gala, and has spoken at conferences and seminars for young Italian Americans. In 2014, Mike Piazza was chosen to light the Empire State Building in Red, White and Green to celebrate NIAF’s mission and educational programs across the country. In 2016, Mike Piazza received the NIAF Special Achievement Award in Sports

Across the Atlantic, anticipation levels for the arrival of Mike Piazza at the helm of Team Italy is beyond belief. Perhaps the biggest believer of new Team Italy manager Mike Piazza is Olympic-bound Team Italy softball skipper Enrico Obletter. "Mike Piazza has the charisma," said Enrico Obletter. "With the amount of Italian Americans playing, you need someone from the United States with a professional background to make the necessary changes for Team Italy. Above all, Mike Piazza is a proud Italian with a profound and prolific background..." Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti