A few days before the start of the 2011 IBAF Baseball World Cup, Marco Mazzieri, head coach of the Italian National Team did an interview, talking about the tournament.
How did your Team qualify for the 2011 Baseball World Cup?
Marco Mazzieri: We are currently the Champions of Europe. The 2010 European Championship, that we won, qualified the top 3 teams to the World Cup.
What selection process did you went through to complete the roster for the BWC? Any problems recruiting professional players for Panama?
Marco Mazzieri: We have been working on a group of players since 2007. Of course, we asked we follow every player who qualifies for the National Team and then concentrate on the players made available by their organizations. Basically, our team is made by the best Italian players of the Italian Baseball League.
What are your expectations for the BWC? Which teams are favored in your group and to win it all?
Marco Mazzieri: Italy wants to compete. If we play at our best, we can make it to the second round and once we are amongst the top 8, we will play one game at a time and see how far we can get.
The best teams in our group are Cuba and the Dominican Republic, in my opinion. But it’s a tough group indeed. Korea and Australia look like young squads, but they have plenty of talent. Venezuela is one of the world baseball powers, Nicaragua plays solid baseball and Germany was tough to beat in the 2010 Euros. I repeat: we will need to play 100%, if we want to make it amongst the top 4 of the group.
How important is the BWC in your country?
Marco Mazzieri: It is a very important tournament for the baseball community. But when you play baseball in the Fall, with all of the pro leagues (soccer, basketball, rugby) already active, you need to perform at the top, to get some interest outside of the baseball community
Did/will you hold a training camp in preparation of the BWC? Did/will you play any exhibition games and if yes, against which team(s)? How much helped the Spring Training in Florida?
Marco Mazzieri: The Spring Training was a very important moment for us. We realize we cannot work out too often during the season and we were aware of the fact we would have had the team together only in July for the All Star Game. As I told to the players, there are many players we consider, but only 24 go to the World Cup. So we pick the ones we consider more fit to the tournament we are going to play.
We will play four games against Instructional League teams (2 vs The Marlins and 2 vs The Nationals) while in Florida. We went back to Vero Beach Sports Village (former Dodger Town) and will stay until September 30th
Any players missing due to injury or other obligations?
Marco Mazzieri: We don’t have relevant injuries. The biggest name we are missing is Alex Liddi, who just made is Big League debut. Also Francisco Cervelli would like to play for us, but he’s a Big Leaguer too.
Could you introduce your coaching staff to us?
Marco Mazzieri: Fortitudo Bologna manager Marco Nanni is my Bench Coach. FIBS Academy MLB Coach in Residence Bill Holmberg is my pitching coach. The hitting coach will be once again Mike Piazza, who is a regular on the staff. Former Team Italy’s second baseman Alberto D’Auria is our third base coach (the same position he has for Nettuno in the IBL) and Claudio Vecchi, a veteran coach who was with the National Team before I was named the manager) will be our first base coach.