Team Italy is the most decorated European team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. The Italian National Baseball Team has won ten European championships, including the back-to-back titles they currently defend. With remarkable consistency, Team Italy has only finished worse than second place seven times in 32 appearances in the European championships.
It’s not that Italy isn’t one of the best national teams competing in Europe, it’s more that Europe has yet to establish a true international presence on a global scale in baseball. Italy is more known for soccer than baseball, and the culture perpetuates relative mediocrity in baseball. The World Baseball Classic belongs to the same handful of international powerhouses each year and Italy is by no means in the same conversation as countries like the United States, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Japan.
Still, Italy has a chance to be one of this year’s biggest Cinderella teams in the World Baseball Classic tournament.
There is a handful of Major League Baseball talent on the Italian National Baseball Team’s roster that could lend experience and leadership to the World Baseball Classic team. Alex Liddi is the first homegrown Italian player to make the Major Leagues, while closer Jason Grilli and infielder Nick Punto are recognizable MLB players as well. The National Team is ranked in the top ten by the International Baseball Federation, which puts them in a good position for a decent run in the tournament. This team beat the tenth ranked IBAF team, Canada, in Toronto during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Italy can certainly be in contention for a World Baseball Classic title, despite the shortcomings of their roster.
It’s unlikely that they have the depth and pitching talent to compete in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, but don’t sleep on Team Italy.