National Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza was officially welcomed as the new Team Italy manager at a press conference held at the Italian National Olympic Committee/Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano (CONI) headquarters in Rome on November 29, 2019. Inside the prestigious Salone d'Onore, CONI President Giovanni Malagò chaired the meeting and he assured the enthusiastic audience of international reporters and delegation representatives that this day marked the beginning of a new era for Italian baseball. He said, "I believe that the selection of Mike Piazza as the new Team Italy manager is both a strong and courageous vote of confidence. His name alone commands respect in the world of baseball. His charisma, personality, and competitiveness throughout his career as a player, a coach, and now as our new manager gives us the best chance for baseball in Italy to enjoy a prosperous future. With Mike Piazza at the helm of Italian baseball, we have the opportunity to reclaim the sparkle of being the leader of the sport in Europe. It will be a long road having missed the road to Tokyo 2020 and now with sights on Los Angeles 2028.”
Replacing manager Gilberto “Gibo” Gerali, who resigned after Team Italy did not qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Mike Piazza must reconstruct the beloved Azzurri baseball squad after their fifth-place finish in the Europe-Africa Olympic Qualifier. Following CONI President Giovanni Malagò on the podium, Mike Piazza gave a heartfelt and emotional call to arms in the Italian baseball revolution. Mike Piazza said, “We need to re-establish our place as one of the elite programs in Europe so we have a lot of work to do.”
Having relocated his family to Italy several years ago, Mike Piazza has a personal sense of duty and obligation to the Motherland. The 12-time MLB All-Star and 10-time Silver Slugger Award Winner continued, “My heart is in Italy now. Italy is a part of me. I am honored and proud to be the manager of this national team, and the last time I was part of the Italian staff we won two European titles. I am optimistic, but I have to work. The future I am convinced is bright. We will have to work hard, with discipline and passion to try to be one of the best programs in Europe. I want to thank FIBS President Andrea Marcon for this opportunity, and CONI for the support it gives to the development of our sport. I am convinced and confident of the growth and development of baseball in Europe and especially in Italy.”
Mike Piazza then concluded his speech by paying tribute to the dedication of Team Italy softball manager Enrico Obletter and offering congratulations to the Olympic-qualifying Azzurre squad. He said, "I want to finally congratulate the Italian National Softball team for the Olympic qualification achieved and wish them the best of luck. They are a great inspiration for us and we want to follow their path with the goal of the 2028 Olympics.”
When asked if he will implement the integration and collaboration of players and coaches from North America into the program, Team Italy manager Mike Piazza spoke with authority. He replied, "It is absolutely in the plans. I have already been in contact with players who want to play, but also with coaches who want to be part of the national team. However, I want to involve Italian coaches to allow our athletes to grow as the future of Italian baseball.”
Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) President Andrea Marcon also spoke at the press conference. He remarked, "It is an important and special day for our Federation, and we gladly embrace Mike Piazza's return to our baseball family, which is going through a period of suffering after the results of the Olympic Qualifier in September. We started a project with Gibo Gerali, whom I want to thank once again. With Mike, we will follow the same path for the eight years ahead of us." Forza #Italia!
by Roberto Angotti