Chicago Cubs fans as a collective, and Anthony Rizzo as an individual, expected that Italy’s presence in the World Baseball Classic would be short-lived, with Rizzo returning to Cubs camp following a quiet exit in the first round. Luckily, for fans of Anthony Rizzo and of Team Italy, this is not going to be the case. Despite dropping their contest against the United States by a score of 6 to 2, the Italian team is advancing following Canada’s defeat of Mexico. Anthony Rizzo was quoted as being surprised on Cubs.com, but also enthusiastic about the victory. Apparently, the sentiment is the same back home in Italy.
Team Italy has only a handful of names familiar to MLB fans, but any time the underdog wins in an international tournament, the excitement is contagious. The Netherlands had similarly surprising success, and have managed to advance into the second round along with Italy, and it is safe to say that they are as excited as the Italians. The Chicago Cubs’ own Anthony Rizzo was the key player in the first win for his team, setting them on the path to their second round berth. He reached base and scored twice in the second game, and went 1-for-3 in the loss against the USA.
Now, Team Italy has some really fierce competition. They are in a group with the USA, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic, the latter of which will be their opponents in the first game on March 12th. The second round is a modified double elimination, and it is very clear that the Italians cannot be counted out. Still, it’s a steep climb to the third round. The Chicago Cubs will be happy to see their guy get more at-bats in a real competition, rather than in the comparatively unimportant exhibitions of Spring Training.