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Team Italy's Marta Gasparotto, Erika Piancastelli, Ilaria Caciamani, and Amanda Fama (Roberto Angotti)

Amanda Fama, Erika Piancastelli, Marta Gasparotto, and Ilaria Cacciamani capture Italy Experience in Irvine

Olympic-bound Team Italy all-stars Amanda Fama, Erika Piancastelli, Marta Gasparotto, and Ilaria Cacciamani gave Southern California athletes the opportunity to learn softball Italian style in addition to essential communication words commonly used by Italian players during the inaugural Italy Experience Camp at Concordia University in Irvine, California on Sunday, February 16, 2020. Campers from Orange County elementary and middle schools were offered tips on pitching, catching, hitting, bunting, baserunning, and agility as well as pointers on how to play the various infield and outfield positions.

It was a special day for Team Italy infielder Amanda Fama, who returned to the site of her alma mater where she remains the all-time Concordia leader in home runs (42) and on-base percentage (.501 OBP) as well as second in school history in batting average (.414 BA). At Experience Italy Camp in Irvine, she was in good company with Team Italy slugger Erika Piancastelli, an All-American Collegiate alum from McNeese State University who is one of only nine hitters in NCAA Division I history to finish her career with at least a .400 batting average, 200 RBI, 50 home runs, and an .800 career slugging percentage.

Amanda Fama and Erika Piancastelli spent their softball formulative years in Southern California, but they never played on the same squad until Amanda Fama joined Team Italy for the first time when she received her Italian citizenship in 2018. Since then, Team Italy captain Erika Piancastelli has welcomed Amanda Fama with open arms to the Azzurre women's softball squad. Both players felt a sense of obligation to give back to their extended Southern California softball families by offering the Italy Experience Camp to up-and-coming players on their home turf. However, for Italian born-and-developed players Marta Gasparotto and Ilaria Cacciamani, it required a passport and a round-trip flight from Italy for them to participate in the exciting one-day softball program at Concordia University Irvine.

Italian flags hung proudly at the Italy Experience Camp check-in desk operated by Amanda Fama's mother, Laura Muniza Fama, along the backstop and the outfield fences as well as high atop one of two flag poles just beyond the center field fence. In honor of Team Italy qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, an Olympic flag was displayed on the second pole. Amanda Fama circled the Concordia diamond and greeted the campers as they arrived. Team Italy catchers Erika Piancastelli and Marta Gasparotto worked diligently with the catchers behind the plate, while Team Italy pitcher Ilaria Caccaciani concentrated on mechanics with young pitchers to begin the Italy Experience Camp for the first hour. Position players joined the group shortly thereafter, and together the campers had a memorable day with four of Team Italy's finest.

Based on the feedback from the campers and their families watching intently in the stands, the Italy Experience Camp was a smashing success. Amanda Fama looked like a natural on the Concordia University diamond since it truly is her home away from home. It would not be surprising to see her become a college softball coach after Team Italy shocks the world in the 2020 Olympics and she decides to hang up the cleats as a player. Teammates Erika Piancastelli, Marta Gasparotto, and Ilaria Cacciamani represented the Azzurre softball squad professionally with the utmost attention to detail in every single drill. Campers became more enamored with the Team Italy players as the hours passed on, and by the end of day it was clear that the Azzurre squad had recruited a set of new young fans who will be cheering for them in the the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti

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