IABF Bay Area Collegiate Baseball Games land Daniel Monti scholarship offer at Sonoma State University

IABF Bay Area Collegiate Baseball Games land Daniel Monti scholarship offer at Sonoma State University
Top Italian prospect and Odessa College baseball star Daniel Monti has been offered a scholarship at Sonoma State University as a result of his participation in the recent Italian American Baseball Foundation Bay Area Baseball Games

When it was announced that former Team Italy manager Gilberto (Gibo) Gerali was appointed the director of the newly-created Parma and Crocetta Baseball Development Academy on the same day as the Italian American Baseball Foundation (IABF) Gala in Brooklyn, New York on December 2, 2021, Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) President Andrea Marcon and IABF President Joe Quagliano were approached by FIBS media representative Roberto Angotti to bring Gibo Gerali and 10 of his most promising Italian prospects to San Francisco, California for the IABF Bay Area Collegiate Baseball Games from April 20-27, 2022.

In the spirit of the Sister Cities relationship between Parma, Italy and Stockton, California, it was natural to select Parma favorite Gibo Gerali to lead the Italian delegation to the San Francisco Bay Area. To be fair to all the local clubs so that it did not impede on their respective Serie A games, he made sure not to take away too many players from each team and find a balanced squad that could represent the area. .

In what many considered a long shot in light of the ongoing pandemic, the IABF Bay Area Collegiate Baseball Games against Holy Names UniversitySan Jose State UniversitySonoma State UniversitySan Francisco State University and University of San Francisco were a huge success recently. IABF All-Star manager Gibo Gerali along with coaches John NoceRob Biagini and Matt Brown invited 10 Italian-born and developed prospects to showcase in front of five Northern California Division I and II colleges so that qualified student athletes could compete for academic scholarships. After the IABF All-Stars impressive performance during the exhibition series, opposing coaches approached Italian players after the games and exchanged information so that negotiations could begin immediately.

The IABF Bay Area Collegiate Baseball Games were consistent with the FIBS masterplan in implementing a college scholarship pipeline program which identifies Italian high school student athletes candidates and pairs them up with prospective college coaches interested in international athletes to improve their team.

Gibo Gerali said, "The games in California were some of the most exciting and successful of my baseball career. Having the opportunity to bring young Italian players to face five elite Bay Area colleges so that they have the opportunity to demonstrate their talent is a gift. Thanks to Roberto Angotti and all those who shared and contributed to his vision in allowing our boys to play competitive games abroad. What we have started is a perfect example as to how things should be done. By putting in the required time and effort, contacting like-minded individuals  and asking for their help, one can achieve the desired result. The players embraced the concept from the start and got great advice from American Baseball College Association Hall of Famer John Noce, pitching coach Rob Biagini and catching coordinator Matt Brown. As a result, the boys played well and enjoyed every minute of their time on and off the field." IABF All-Stars pitching coach Rob Biagini echoed the sentiment and commented, "What we have set in motion is the beginning of a new and improved movement and era for Italian baseball."

While Daniel Monti flew in from Odessa College in Texas, the nine other IABF All-Stars came directly from Italy with manager Gibo Gerali. Although for some players it was their first time crossing the Atlantic, others had either touched down in North America representing Team Italy for international competitions or the continents of Europe-Africa in the Little League World Series, Junior League World Series and the Senior League World Series. The IABF All-Stars included Edoardo AcerbiTommaso AdorniRiccardo BigliardiSebastiano CatellaniRiccardo FlisiTommaso NaniAndrea PasottoTommaso Nani and Marco Ragionieri.

In order to field a complete roster, additional Italian American players were recruited to supplement the IABF All-Stars. Those included Gio BrusaA.J. CipollaGiovanni GarbellaJimmy LunardelliJared LunardiMatt MascioDante Peretti and Andrew Pierotti. It truly was an ongoing cultural exchange with both Italian and English being spoken in the dugout and on the field. A.J. Cipolla said, "I have so much love for my Italian teammates. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had as a ballplayer. I want nothing more than to keep in touch with that whole group I was able to join for these games."  

After the contests against Holy Names at College of Alameda in Oakland on April 20th and San Jose State University at Menlo College in Atherton on April 21st, the IABF All-Stars were invited the following day to a morning practice at College of San Mateo (CSM) by CSM manager Doug Williams. In the afternoon, Baseball Without Borders President Juan Bustos led the Italian delegation to the resting place of Joe DiMaggio at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. After enjoying a BBQ lunch, the IABF All-Stars were treated to an evening San Jose State University (SJSU) game at Excite Ballpark courtesy of SJSU head coach Brad Sanfilippo.

Oakland A's Vice President Steve Fanelli welcomed the IABF All-Stars on the field at the Oakland Coliseum to meet A's Italian American coach Mike Aldrete prior to the start of the game against the Texas Rangers on April 23rd. Manager Gibo Gerali also met with California's top pitching prospect Nic Bronzini, who has committed to Louisiana State University and has expressed interest in joining Team Italy. The A's recognized Gibo Gerali and the IABF All-Stars on the scoreboard in the fourth inning.

After the A's game, IABF board member Mark Cardillo invited the team to his cousin's house in the nearby Oakland Hills for an authentic five-course Italian dinner. IABF President Joe Quagliano joined the festivities for an enjoyable night of delectable cuisine and productive conversations with the players.

The IABF All-Stars visited all the essential San Francisco sights before settling down for lunch at Fisherman's Wharf on April 24th. Later that night, IABF board members Chris VaccaroJoe Quagliano and Mark Cardillo awarded the IABF All-Star players and coaching staff commemorative plaques at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club. Honored guests at the award ceremony and the world premiere of Introducing Team Italy Manager Mike Piazza by director Roberto Angotti included former MLB and Team Italy favorite Daniel Descalso, San Jose State University coach Brad Sanfilippo, Sonoma State University coach Tony Ragusa, San Francisco State University coach Tony Schifano, University of San Francisco coach Craig Gianinno and San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani. Grammy nominee Pato Banton later brought the capacity crowd to its feet on the dance floor with his captivating brand of Baseball Reggae.

On Festa della Liberazione (April 25th) the IABF All-Stars traveled across the Golden Gate Bridge to Rohnert Park, home of the Sonoma State University Seawolves. After the game, Sonoma State University coach Tony Ragusa hosted a dinner in honor of the IABF All-Stars. As a result of his promising performance, Daniel Monti was later offered by the Sonoma State University coaching staff a scholarship to attend school and play baseball next year. 

The following day the IABF All-Stars played the San Francisco State University (SFSU) Gators at "The Swamp". While Italian American SFSU freshman star Michael Cunningham met with manager Gibo Gerali before the game to talk about his interest in playing in Italy, Italian American SFSU manager Tony Schifano gave the IABF All-Stars an inspirational speech on how baseball has afforded him the ability to travel the world and help grow the game in places like Italy.

After the game, the IABF All-Stars were treated to a Pizza Party hosted by Baseball Without Borders. The players were also treated to a scrumptious dessert complete with an Italian flag made by Dianda's Italian American Pastry in San Francisco before being awarded personalized gloves made in Nicaragua with their names on them. The IABF All-Stars left the festive celebration with fully bellies and ear-to-ear smiles with new gloves in hand.

The IABF All-Stars played their final game against the University of San Francisco at Dante Benedetti Diamond on April 27th. At the conclusion of the contest, both teams met on the field for a group photo and exchanged uniforms and hats. The IABF All-Stars made their way to Oracle Park to see the San Francisco Giants host the Oakland A's courtesy of Giants team physician Anthony Saglimbeni and San Francisco Giants Vice President Mario Alioto. Manager Gibo Gerali and the IABF All-Stars were also acknowledged on the Giants scoreboard during the game. The special moment culminated nine days of baseball heaven during the IABF Bay Area Collegiate Baseball Games.

Special thanks to everyone, especially sponsors Italian American Baseball Foundation, San Francisco Italian Athletic Club, Ital Foods Inc, Museo Italo Americano, Baseball Without Borders, and San Francisco Baseball Academy, who helped make this dream come. Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti

(Photo of IABF All-Stars listening to San Francisco State University manager Tony Schifano prior to game on April 26, 2022 by Roberto Angotti)