Synergy between Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball and MLB felt at Italian American Baseball Foundation Gala in New York

Synergy between Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball and MLB  felt at Italian American Baseball Foundation Gala in New York
After Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) President Andrea Marcon along with members of the Italian delegation met with Major League Baseball International executives Jim Small and Chris Haydock at the new MLB headquarters on Sixth Street in Manhattan the day prior, the Sixth Annual Italian American Baseball Foundation (IABF) Gala on December 2, 2021 at Giando On the Water in Brooklyn provided the perfect backdrop for the front office personnel, players, coaches, and media representatives to synergize their efforts in helping grow and promote the games of baseball and softball in Italy and beyond.

Having attended the European Baseball Championship in Torino and witnessed the managerial debut of National Baseball Hall of Famer and Team Italy skipper Mike Piazza over two months ago, MLB Senior Vice President of International Baseball Jim Small felt the passion and commitment of FIBS officials against all odds in the midst of a pandemic. MLB International colleague Chris Haydock did not have to travel so far to understand the Italians' sense of urgency when seated at the FIBS table at the sold-out IABF Gala across the Williamsburg Bridge in nearby Brooklyn on Thursday night, December 2, 2021.

FIBS President Andrea Marcon said, "The restructuring of the calendar of international competitions cannot ignore a complete synergy between all the entities that manage them. MLB along with the WBSC each contribute their invaluable knowledge and resources to maximize its global reach by introducing baseball and softball to receptive and enthusiastic fans around the world. Competitive events we host in Italy must entice the general public, the media and potential sponsors to get involved and support our mission without overlapping or conflicting with other competitions. We want to attract athletes to baseball and softball so they may have the opportunity to play, grow and develop in a strategic yet organic way."

MLB has committed to international competitions such as the 2023 World Baseball Classic with hopes of carrying on the tradition every three years thereafter. The possibility of a newly-developed World Softball Classic is on the table for discussion. FIBS President Andrea Marcon remarked, "For some time now, we have been advocating for the World Softball Classic and also the inclusion of MLB players on Team Italy in international competitions, We invited National Softball Hall of Famer and Team Italy special advisor Mike Candrea to our meeting with MLB as well as the IABF Gala. I cannot think of a better coach to help our existing program grow and develop exponentially after our appearance in the recent Olympics."

Prior to the IABF Gala, FIBS President Andrea Marcon, FIBS Vice President Roberta Soldi, Team Italy softball special advisor Mike Candrea and Team Italy coach Gianmarco Faraone met with the IABF executive directors. IABF President Joe Quagliano, Vice President Carmine Gangone, Secretary Mark Cardillo, Treasurer Joe DiMartino and Scholarship Committee Advisor/Philadelphia Phillies Scout Dan Palumbo have created a roadmap in association with FIBS to offer Italian baseball and softball players the opportunity to attend high school and/or college in the U.S. while receiving the best possible coaching available to reach their highest potential. Both entities have agreed to cooperative identity potential scholarship candidates, develop a cohesive award criteria and find appropriate educational opportunities for student athletes.

MLB and the IABF reaffirmed their commitment in helping recruit past and present MLB players and coaches for baseball clinics in Italy as well as strengthen the lineup of baseball and softball luminaries for the annual CON6 convention. Team Italy coach Dan Bonanno, well-respected for his years of work as a consultant for MLB International, also attended the MLB and IABF meetings. He serves an important role as a natural intermediary between all interested parties with the common goal of a greater good for Italian baseball. FIBS President Andrea Marcon commented, "I firmly believe that our relationship with MLB International's Jim Small at the helm provides one of the best opportunities FIBS could ever wish for to grow and develop."

At every corner of the IABF Gala stood Italian and American flags as attendees proudly entered the front steps of Giando On the Water IABF President Joe Quagliano welcomed guests at the entrance with a warm handshake or embrace. Cameras flashed and microphones loomed as the likes of Frank Catalanotto, John Franco, Jason Grilli, Mike Pagliarulo and Aaron Boone graced the event with their presence and ongoing support. Emcee Wayne Randazzo announced the 2021 IABF honorees: New York Yankees prospect Anthony Volpe (IABF Future Star Award), 45-year-veteran baseball coach Dom Scala (IABF Achievement Award), Washington Nationals President and General Manager Mike Rizzo (IABF Executive of the Year), Sports Illustrated writer and Fox Sports/MLB Network studio analyst Tom Verducci (IABF Media Award) and Baltimore Orioles first baseman/designated hitter Trey Mancini (Tommy Lasorda Award), who was introduced via pre-recorded video by Team Italy manager Mike Piazza.

Trey Mancini captivated the crowd with his eloquently-delivered speech, which retraced the 100-year-old family owned and operated Mancini Foods and Packing Company and how he always felt his Italian roots growing up. The Baltimore Orioles All-Star shared his desire to represent Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic in 2017 but being diagnosed with colon cancer kept him off the playing field. The 2021 American League Comeback Player of the Year defeated cancer and returned to produce 21 home runs and 77 RBI. After his emotionally charged appearance on the IABF Gala stage, he received a standing ovation from the celebrated cast of attendees, which included past honorees Bobby Valentine, John Franco, Lee Mazzilli, Frank Catalanotto, Anthony Iapoce, J.P. Riccardi, Gary Perone and Natalie Spedaliere. MLB favorites Aaron Boone, Jeff Nelson and Jason Grilli as well as Team Italy slugger Vito Friscia were among baseball royalty seen at the 2021 IABF Gala. Congratulations to IABF founders Joe Quagliano and Carmine Gangone on a job well done. Forza #Italia!

by Roberto Angotti