After landing in Bologna, Nico Giarratano aspires to play for Team Italy

Coupled with Fortitudo Bologna second baseman and Team Italy captain Alessandro Vaglio, former San Francisco Giants and Oakland A's minor league shortstop Nico Giarratano completes the perfect double-play combination from over 6,000 miles away. Following a long list of celebrated Italian American players with strong baseball roots to the Bay Area--including Joe DiMaggio, along with his brothers–Dom and Vince DiMaggio, Tony Lazzeri, Frank Crosetti, Babe Pinelli, Ernie Lombardi, Rugger Ardizoia, Billy Martin and Jim Fregosi, Nico Giarratano went to the same high school and college as San Francisco baseball patron saint Dante Benedetti.

After his standout prep career at San Francisco's Saint Ignatius High School and the University of San Francisco (USF), Dante Benedetti mentored hundreds of young athletes including the DiMaggio brothers. Coined "Mr. Baseball" by "Joltin' Joe" DiMaggio, Dante Benedetti served as head coach of the USF Dons from 1962 to 1980. He was inducted into the USF Hall of Fame in 1971, and the school’s baseball diamond was named after him eight years later. Following in the glory of Dante Benedetti's legacy, Nino Giarratano--father of Nico Giarratano--took on the USF managerial role in 1999 and became the winningest coach in USF baseball history when he surpassed Dante Benedetti with his 374th victory in 2009. Currently in his 22nd season at the helm of USF baseball with nearly 600 wins to his credit, Nino Giarratano had the opportunity to coach his son from 2014 to 2017.

Nico Giarratano did not disappoint his father while at USF. He injected new life into the USF baseball program and made the 2014 West Coast Conference (WCC) All-Freshman Team. In addition to being named the 2016 West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year after committing just four errors in 264 chances, the USF junior shortstop took home the team's top defensive player honors with the Jermaine Clark Award as well as shared team MVP acccolades with the Dante Benedetti Award. During his four-year collegiate career at USF, Nico Giarratano played in 220 games and became the WCC Career Defensive Assists Record Holder with 602 assists.

Nico Giarratano was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 24th round of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft. He was assigned to the Rookie League Arizona Giants, where he played in 35 games and made 79 plate appearances with a .253 batting average, .342 slugging percentage, and .375 on-base percentage. Nico Giarratano moved up to Short Season Single-A Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in 2018, when he committed just five defensive errors in 50 games. In 171 at-bats, he hit 11 doubles and five home runs to boost his batting average to .269 and his slugging percentage to .421. After playing 65 games for Single-A Augusta GreenJackets in 2019, Nico Giarratano was released by the San Francisco Giants and was signed one week later by the Oakland Athletics. He turned heads immediately by raking at the plate in six games for the Rookie League Arizona Athletics Green with a .533 batting average, .636 on-base percentage, and .600 slugging perecentage. Nico Giarratano was promoted to Single-A Advanced Stockton Ports and played in 28 games before electing free agency on November 4, 2019.

The 25-year-old California native now joins Italian powerhouse Fortitudo Bologna, winners of the 2019 European Champions Cup. For Nico Giarratano, it was a no-brainer to make up his mind to play abroad and audition for the Team Italy starting shortstop position by way of a successful season for Fortitudo Bologna. Nico Giarratano said, "Honestly it was an easy decision for me and my family to say yes to such an amazing opportunity. You never know where the game is going to take you and to end up in such a great place like Italy is amazing. My goal is to go out and have a good season with Bologna and hopefully make the Team Italy squad! To play for a manager like Mike Piazza would be a dream come true..." Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti