FIBS Pipeline and Barry Butera grant Mathieu Silva's wish to play baseball and study in the USA

FIBS Pipeline and Barry Butera grant Mathieu Silva's wish to play baseball and study in the USA
After representing Team Italy in the 2021 U12 Baseball World Cup and the 2022 U12 European Baseball Championship, Mathieu Silva left Bollate for an extraordinary experience at Barry Butera's Lake Castle School in Madisonville (New Orleans), Louisiana.

When Lake Castle School Principal and Baseball Head Coach Barry Butera, father of 2023 Team Italy World Baseball Classic bench coach Blake Butera, accepted the invitation to share his experience as a youth baseball coach at CON-X 2023, he could hardly imagine that he would later be hosting a young and promising Azzurrini student athlete at his school and on his baseball diamond. 

Barry Butera's love for his Italian roots and culture coupled with his passion for teaching and playing baseball paved the way for the FIBS Pipeline to come to fruition. Mathieu Silva is the first of hopefully many Italian middle school and high school student athletes to study and compete in the USA as a result of the ongoing efforts of FIBS.

The combination of a strong sense of family, the collaboration of educational institutions, a sufficient knowledge of the English language, and a yearning desire for the game and for its core values made Mathieu Silva, born in 2010 and standout player for Bollate, Rho and Team Italy, the perfect candidate for the FIBS Pipeline Program.

At the end of August, Mathieu Silva flew to Louisiana with his father Christian Silva, a former player and current softball coach, to begin his American adventure, The FIBS Pipeline creates opportunities for enriched personal and technical growth connected to the American training system. Through the tireless efforts of FIBS Director of International Projects Gianmarco Faraone, Lake Castle School Principal and Baseball Head Coach Barry Butera and hosts Manny Estrada and family, Mathieu Silva's dream came true. 

Three months after Mathieu Silva's arrival, Barry Butera was asked a few questions:

What was the first reaction of your colleagues to the idea of hosting an Italian student athlete? 

Everyone at Lake Castle was extremely excited to host an Italian boy! We had never seen a kid from another country participate in any of our sports programs before. Therefore, we were all very excited to welcome Mathieu with open arms and also a little eager to do everything we could to make him feel welcome and support him in any way we could.

Barry, what are the aspects of the sports program that can most influence Mathieu's growth and what can he bring to the kids at Lake Castle?

I think Mathieu didn't need much time here to realize that baseball in the United States can be very different than what a 13-year-old boy might experience in Italy. Our seventh and eighth grade baseball players begin practice on January 10th. We train five or six times a week until we play our first match in late February or early March. Our training sessions last approximately two hours and the players are constantly trained in every aspect of the game, both physically and mentally. Attention to detail is emphasized in everything they do.

The boys train or play five or six days a week until the beginning of May. After a week off, baseball resumes five days a week until mid-June. Then we have activities again from the beginning of October until the middle of November, training on every fundamental of the game four or five times a week.

I believe that Mathieu will leave here with the knowledge that to become a good player he, or any boy who wants to become really good, must have a passionate and very strong desire to become the best he can be and always look forward: working every day on every aspect of the game, as well as working on his speed and physical strength. Mathieu is already a much better player today than just ninety days ago when he arrived here, and he knows that he has to continue to work hard to become an even better player.

What Mathieu brought to the kids at Lake Castle was huge, and much bigger than just the baseball aspect. The guys here at Lake Castle are wonderful, but they showed us a side we had never seen before Mathieu arrived. We were amazed at how they went out of their way to take care of Mathieu, to help him make new friends and get used to what we do here in every way possible. It was a beautiful thing to see them assist!

In your opinion, can this first experience with Mathieu pave the way for a broader program of a  structured cultural exchange?

Absolutely. This experience could pave the way for future Italian kids to attend Lake Castle. I know that both the Italian kids and ours here at Lake Castle will continue to benefit enormously from this relationship!

Father Christian Silva was also asked a few questions: 

What was the first reaction to the proposal to let Mathieu live this experience and what evaluations did you make at home before accepting?

The first reaction was joy. I waited until dinner time to share the proposal with the whole family, who responded enthusiastically, the dream of those who play baseball was coming true, with the opportunity to play it in America. Having never been absent for such a long period, we had the unknown of how much we would feel the distance and the absence of Mathieu at home, but the opportunity for him and his future was too important not to accept it, so from the next day we started checking, with the school where Mathieu was attending the seventh grade, how he could prepare for the eighth grade exam scheduled for June 2024.

The love for baseball is well rooted in the family. How much did knowledge of the game influenced you in your decision?

More than knowledge of the game, it's what the game has taught us. Baseball, being a team game, but in which one is also involved individually with great responsibilities, is training and educational, a 'school' that teaches values and principles useful for dealing with any context in which we are called to live and move. To think that Mathieu, in addition to playing in the United States, could also live and study in a completely new context, we were certain would be a challenge to face.

How did the first few weeks go for your family?

We chose to accompany him to stay with him for a week and meet the American family who would host him. It was therefore easier for him, once he returned home, to tell his family who he would welcome at home, the teachers and schoolmates with whom he would spend the following months. Despite the time difference, the telephone was a useful tool for constantly updating us, allowing us, albeit from a distance, to participate in his daily school and sporting commitments.

What message do you feel like giving to parents who may find themselves faced with the same proposal in the future?

A message of trust towards a child that all parents would like to see happily safe. Being so far away, without being able to promptly intervene in case of need, destabilizes and makes one feel helpless, but the less easy conditions that the child finds himself facing are certainly educational and help him to acquire the autonomy and self-esteem that he will need to the future. But be careful: the family must pay attention to scholastic preparation, which must not be lost sight of having to bridge the differences between the Italian and American school programs. The hope is that many other families can receive the same opportunity from the Federation, with particular thanks to Gianmarco Faraone of FIBS, Barry Butera and Manny Estrada, whose family hosts our Mathieu, without whom this experience would not have been possible.

Forza #Italia!

by Marco Landi and Roberto Angotti

(Photo of Mathieu Silva together with his new teammates from Lake Castle School)