FIBS College Pipeline helps Italian baseball and softball prospects reach new heights

FIBS College Pipeline helps Italian baseball and softball prospects reach new heights
FIBS President Andrea Marcon outlined how the FIBS College Pipeline affords the most promising young Italian athletes the opportunity to compete and study at American universities through the ongoing support of partners like the Italian American Baseball Foundation.

Mission Classic brought to Italy, for the first time in history, a proming group of MLB players and prospects. The first step in establishing team spirit in light of the upcoming World Baseball Classic in March, Mission Classic also allowed Italian-born and developed players the opportunity to work with the professional athletes prior to the start of the Team Italy Future Stars Game in Arezzo on Sunday, November 23, 2022. Team Italy manager and National Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza, along with coaches Michele Gerali, Alberto D'Auria and Rolando Cretis, welcomed World Baseball Classic (WBC) coaches Blake Butera, Brian Sweeney, Chris Denorfia and Jack Santora to the Azzurri staff. Looking to work together on a long-term basis after the WBC, the Italian American quartet of Minor League Baseball coaches are committed to the growth and development of baseball in Italy.

Mission Classic was blessed to have the company of many influential members of the Italian American Baseball Foundation Board of Directors. President Joe Quagliano, Vice President Carmine Gangone, Secretary Mark Cardillo and Director of Communications Chris Vaccaro were on hand in Italy to witness the magic firsthand and also give an update on various collaborations including the FIBS College Pipeline.

In fact, shortly after the FIBS Federal Council met on October 27, 2022 to discuss the FIBS College Pipeline, news circulated that two members of the Team Italy U18 baseball squad had been offered college scholarships. Italian-Canadian Alessandro Volpe was awarded an athletic scholarship at NCAA Division I Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Missouri, and Oltretorrente Parma catching sensation Marco Ragionieri was offered a scholarship to NJCAA's Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona.

FIBS President Andrea Marcon said, “FIBS is creating a system through which young baseball and softball players can seize college opportunities, develop their talents in the United States, and continue to compete for national teams throughout their careers. It is a path that other Federations have also undertaken in Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Australia and China. It has undoubtedly produced great results."

FIBS President Andrea Marcon continued, “There are currently five Azzurri baseball players competing at U.S. colleges including Tommaso Giarola, Lorenzo Morresi, Daniel Monti, Francesco Bonvini and Giulio Monello. Now they will be joined by Alessandro Volpe and Marco Ragionieri. Our goal is the FIBS College Pipeline will faciliate at least fifteen Italian players in American colleges by the end of 2024. The Italian American Baseball Foundation is integral to the success of the FIBS College Pipeline with its annual scholarship program. As a result of the IABF, Team Italy U23 pitcher Francesco Bonvini was able to attend CUNY Kingsborough,and now Daniel Montil is all set to play at Sonoma State University."

FIBS President Andrea Marcon also shared plans for upcoming IABF-sponsored showcase for Italian players aged between 18 and 21 in the New York area in April. He said, "Following in the footsteps to this past year's IABF Bay Area Collegiate Baseball Games organized by Roberto Angotti, this program is orchestrated by Italian American coaches Frank Catalanotto, Nick Derba and Mike Gambino. Let is be known that it is the entire baseball community of Italian origin in the United States and Canada that is taking action to help the growth of our athletes.”

Born in Canada and raised in Italy, FIBS President Andrea Marcon is especially proud of the inaugural Italian Baseball Week in Toronto. He elaborated, "It is an annual event sponsored by the Italian-Canadian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario and its affililated members and organized by our friend Flavio Volpe. It offers the opportunity for our youth teams to train professionally before international events and allows our players to showcase for college and professional scouts. Next year we plan on having the U15 and U23 squads participate prior to their respective European Championships.”

The Team Italy U18 squad participated in Italian Baseball Week in Toronto prior to the U18 Baseball World Cup in Florida. Sponsored by the IABF and managed by Between the Lines (BTL), one of North America's leading scouting platforms, Italian Baseball Week yielded three college scholarship offers for members of the Team Italy U18 squad as well as several inquiries for other players by interested schools. BTL has also committed to working with one player recommended by the coaches for each Italian Regional Academy through 2023-2024.

Italian Baseball Week events taking place in the summer of 2023 will also give players the opportunity to participate in the Prep Baseball Report Showcase and the Marucci World Series, the most important showcase for young talent, for no charge.

FIBS President Andrea Marcon commented on the recent Future Stars Game in Arezzo. He said, “Playing in front of so many stars on and off the field was a magical moment for our Azzurri squad. I want to thank them for the commitment it took to keep fit for so long after the season. But it's energy well invested, as they were also playing for consideration for MLB London College Series events, which will precede the Cubs-Cardinals games at the European Series in June 2023."

FIBS President Andrea Marcon also talked about the bright future for Team Italy softball. He said, "The opportunities will be created, as is the case for the Academies program, which receives the continuous support of Mike Candrea, Becky Blatnick and Nancy Evans. All of whom will already be in Italy in January before CON-X in Rimini to work with our coaches, pitching coaches, and our players. This project will work to establish softball with the same support as college baseball using our contacts at the IABF and BTL. At the end of November, we will be together again with the entire IABF board in New York to discuss our ongoing programming."

FIBS will also embark on a new venture to help athletes acquire the necessary skills to demonstrate proficiency of the English language. FIBS President Andrea Marcon remarked, "We are, in fact, establishing a partnership with a specialized institute to help players pass the TOEFL certification exam, which is required to enter U.S. colleges. We are convinced as more players have access to university experiences that the the better the national programs will become. The connections that FIBS maintains with the Italian-American and Italian-Canadian communities and coaches, the sponsorships, events and showcases, as well as the exposure guaranteed by the World Baseball Classic make this historical moment particularly favorable to our project and our partners. We believe it is the key to a medium and long-term growth program for those who will have the talent, the passion and the right commitment to seize this great opportunity.” Forza #Italia!

by Marco Landi and Roberto Angotti

(Photo of catcher Marco Ragionieri and pitcher Riccardo Nepoti at the 2022 U18 European Baseball Championship Bronze Medal Game by PetraVoetPhotography)