Team Italy pitching coach Bill Holmberg was interviewed on Peter Caliendo's Baseball Outside the Box podcast, which was broadcast on Facebook and on YouTube on March 29, 2020. Bill Holmberg, who served as MLB director of the Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) Academy in Tirrenia for 14 years, is synonymous with Italian baseball. The European Baseball Coaches Association recognized Team Italy pitching coach Bill Holmberg for his excellence by honoring him with the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award.
As Major League Baseball International Pitching Coordinator for Europe and Africa, Team Italy pitching coach Bill Holmberg has been instrumental in the growth and development of the game abroad. In fact, during his tenure at the FIBS Academy, 22 players signed professional contracts and 18 of those players threw over 90 mph. Bill Holmberg said, “Not all of those 18 were excellent athletes, but a lot of hard work, sweat, and patience allowed us to develop players." He credited the support of Team Italy strength and conditioning coach Gianni Natale as well as Daniele Santolupo and Davide Sartini for helping players achieve their goals while at the FIBS Academy.
In regards to pitching in baseball, Bill Holmberg said, “Results equal velocity and health.” By implementing the MLB-approved throwing program, based on the latest sports science, it can help coaches and their players achieve desired results. He breaks down throwing motion into constituent parts, with drills to ensure correct technique. Bill Holmberg said, “You have to set your body and your arm in a position that can accept the next position. In teaching pitching or throwing, coaches need to identify the fault, design a drill to correct it, make sure the player feels the correction, and then let the player figure it out. Coaches need to talk less and implement more drills so they can evaluate (and redirect if necessary)."
Citing Pittsburgh Pirates Coordinator of Instruction and 2019 Team USA coach Dave Tergen as an inspiration in helping players understand what it means to compete. Bill Holmberg has been teaching players how to compete every day. He said, "This is accomplished by forcing the player during practice to compete on every single pitch, out, and inning. An example of this concept is putting hitters side-by-side with a screen in between, separating the fastball machine and curveball machine (or a coach throwing BP). Then coaches log the number of hits and solid contacts to force the players to understand this is a competition. When you get in the battter's box, it is a competition. It's not just batting practice going through the motions." Team Italy pitching coach Bill Holmberg mentioned that the same principle can also be applied to pitching by having two pitchers in separate bullpens to compete against each other in throwing strikes. He said, "It's situational pitching and not just situational hitting."
Former Team Italy pitcher John Mariotti, who worked under pitching coach Bill Holmberg in the 2012 European Championship and the 2013 World Baseball Classic, spoke highly of the MLB ambassador. Having played four years in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system, John Mariotti has seen his share of professional pitching coaches. He said, "Bill is one of the more knowledgeable coaches I’ve had the pleasure of playing for. Bill and I spent a lot of time together over in Europe, and he taught me a lot about pitching. He has totally changed my mentality as far as how I approach hitters. His knowledge and ability to scout teams and prepare the pitching staff with information about our opponent is impressive. He is very passionate about teaching and coaching players. He is a key component to the coaching staff and the success of the Italians."
In the 2010 and 2012 European Baseball Championships as well as in the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics, Team Italy pitching coach Bill Holmberg enlisted the services of then hitting coach Mike Piazza to accompany him on reconnaissance scouting missions. Supplemented by scouting reports from Inside Edge and Jamey Storvick, the first American scout in Taiwan (Cincinnati Reds), Bill Holmberg and Mike Piazza along with manager Marco Mazzieri led Team Italy to two European Championship titles and the second round of the 2013 World Baseball Classic (with Team USA). With National Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza recently named as the new manager of Team Italy, Bill Holmberg is optimistic about a bright future for Italian baseball. Forza #Italia!
by Roberto Angotti