Check this out! One of my readers is from Italy, his name is Giampolo Tassinari, and he loves baseball and writes about it. Here is his first guest column on OBM. Cool.
VOICES FROM THE DUGOUT
As the 2004 season has nearly played its first half of the scheduled games, the hunger of the Italian baseball fan is growing and growing. Twice a week on pay TV, Italians watch what happened the previous day in the majors. Monday and Wednesday night baseball provided by ESPN brings to our homes the celebrated American national pastime. And a lot of people are becoming deeply interested, and even some are beginning their love affair with baseball, perhaps a sport they did not know at all until they watched it on TV. These new fans are sometimes attracted by the name of a famous player, like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. Otherwise it’s a club to which they stick, the Yankees and the Giants are notable. That helps them to dig into the MLB scene.
I have to admit that in my youth I went mad for hockey and later for basketball and football (before later discovering I didn’t like them at all, ;-) but in recent years, although I have known baseball since I was a child, I have begun to appreciate more fully the philosophy, history and mystique of this game.
In Italy baseball is considered a non-sport. Every sport that is not soccer in fact does not count, and turns out to be meaningless to the great public. Anyway Italian baseball is dominant in Europe in an eternal fight with the Dutch. It’s always Italy and the Netherlands: I would also like to mention “The Never Ending Story,” in which, during the past month, in the little Republic of San Marino, (an enclave inside Italy), there has been the 41st edition of the European Clubs Cup where the best eight 2003 national champions met.
Italy was represented by Fortitudo (in Latin language it means “Fortress”) of Bologna, a club that twenty years ago had a pitcher who came from the MLB whose name was Jackson Todd. The Dutchmen, who came into this year the four-time defending champions, did not miss their chances. The defending champions of Neptunus Rotterdam, together with Bussum, were the two representatives from teh Netherlands; and the former reached the final to be challenged by Bologna. Neptunus won easily (8-1) and confirmed their European crown for the fifth time in a row (sixth overall) in front of hundreds of bitter Bologna fans. However bitter, Bolgna’s fans had to accept the loss, knowing it was completely deserved as they were unable to stop Neptunus’ outfielder Comenencia who hit, hit and hit.
Next August we shall have baseball at the Olympic Games in Athens, where USA will not be able to defend their gold medal won four years ago in Sydney. We all remember their embarrassing defeat suffered against Mexico last year in the Pan American Games at Santo Domingo, where the stars and stripes hopes to go through to Athens were denied. It will be interesting to see the Greek team fielding almost the entire double-passport squad exclusively made of North American players, who seem to have the edge on the powerful and glorious Cubans; who with some difficulty will miss their chance to win the rubber.
Before ending; some words on the majors that we see from Italy:
First of all here the whole baseball family is happy that a pitcher who played in our League is playing well in the majors. His name is Jason Simontacchi and Tony Larussa is using him, although not regularly, in St.Louis.
In the American League as usual the Bronx Bombers are dominating: after the hitting failure during last year’s World Series, this season the hitters have improved a lot, courtesy also of the arrivals of Gary Sheffield, A-Rod and Kenny Lofton (although you cannot discount the addition of new hitting instructor Don Mattingly) On the other hand the pitching staff must recover after The Rocket and Pettitte for Houston and David Wells went to San Diego. I think the White Sox can fight until the beginning of October, and will come from behind to beat out Minnesota; despite some of their recent losses. Particularly galling was the series loss to the resurgent Cleveland Indians; but the 2-1 series win over the Cubs appears to bode well for the future.
In the National League the club to beat at the moment would seem to be the Cardinals; with a strong rotation and a very effective bullpen, to which we can add some wonderful bats like those of Rolen, Renteria, Edmonds, Sanders, Womack and Pujols. The Cincinnati Reds are finally playing well, although they are having some troubles with their starting pitchers. However, Dave Miley has done a very good job to renew the club’s spirit and hopes, and the Reds might come back soon where they deserve to stay.
The same should be written for the Giants: on the strength of ten consecutive victories, they finally recaptured first place in the West; and it’ll be a three way fight with the Dodgers and the Padres until the end of the regular season. After the 4-game sweep against the Dodgers, Alou’s men came back to the top of the division and to beat the Giants, pitchers will have to remember that if they walk Barry, there will be a hungry squad of men like Cruz, Durham, Grissom, Pierzynski and Alfonzo at bat.
Good luck Giants. See you soon….
I edited him just a little; my wife lived in Italy for 14 years, so I have some sense of the style differences in the two languages. Still, he has a terrific grasp of many of the important aspects, and I look forward to publishing more of his correspondence.