Baseball in Italy? Oh yes, it happened.
IN THE GAME Home runs are called fuoricampi, which translates literally to outfields, in the sense of "out of the park." Hits are valide, or "valids." And a strike out is a strike out. It's pretty adorable, when the field announcer at Stadio Nuevo Europeo in Parma exclaims, "Strike! Three! Out!"
At one point last Saturday, Parma's starter Jose Sanchez struck out seven in a row. Over six shutout innings, he struck out 12, so we got to hear it a lot:
"Strike! Three! Out!"
How it happened was like this: I was born, and it was 50 years ago. And now it's now. So: yeah . . . fuckin' 50.
Many years ago I had a sweatshirt with Chief Wahoo (the Cleveland Indians' politically insensitive logo) on it, only instead of saying Cleveland it said Nettuno. The Nettuno Indians.
Then, when anyone said they were offended by my shirt I would say, but it's not Cleveland; it's Nettuno. Which admittedly didn't solve the problem. At best it diverted attention away from it long enough for me to sneak out a side door — you know, while my assailant's pot-addled brain was flipping through his rolodex of planets, from the sun outward, looking for Nettuno.
Is "rolodex" still a word?
In either case, we couldn't believe we missed the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park earlier this spring, so, so long as we were in Europe for my birthday we thought we'd go see us some world baseball. Which is to say, Italian baseball. Which is to say, Parma vs. Grosseto. Which is to say, Enegan Toshiba Grosseto. Which is also to say, the Grosetto Mastiffs.
The names of the teams are very confusing over there. And they tend to change a lot, sometimes even between innings. In fact, sadly, I don't think the Nettuno Indians are the Nettuno Indians anymore. Probably Cleveland sued them. Or someone pointed out that Native Americans were inherently American and, by extension, from Earth.
Anyway, we had hoped to make it to Nettuno, to find out, but they were away that Saturday, playing a doubleheader against Saturno. Italian baseball only happens on weekends, see. There just isn't enough interest in it, when Hedgehog and I aren't around, to support more games than that. Even with us, attendance for the game in Parma was 139. I know because I counted.
I also used my passport as a straight-edge to line some squares into a piece of paper and I kept score. All so I could tell my loyal and baffled readership back here at home in San Francisco that Parma beat Grosseto on Saturday 9-3.
Leftfielder Massimo Pesci, hitting in the nine hole, crushed a two-run homer off Grosseto starter Rafael Garcia in the second. Parma added two in the fifth, chasing Garcia, then blasted Coronado Angel Marquez in the sixth with five straight hits, capped by a Luca Scalera two-run shot.
With the game securely out of reach, Parma reliever Alexander Tabata Velasquez came on in the 7th and earned a three-inning save.
Grosseto got all three of their runs in the eighth. Francesco Di Mattia led off with a pinch single, Rafael Lora walked, and Bernardo Encarnacion singled to load the bases. Cleanup hitter Nelwin Sforza came through with a sharp single to center, scoring two, and Vincenzo D'Addio followed with a sac fly to right, plating Encarnacion.
There. I just wanted to say all that. Because I'm 50, so I can.
Winning pitcher: Jose Sanchez. Losing pitcher: Rafael Garcia. And if you're wondering why all the Italian league pitchers have Spanish sounding names, it's because they import them from Latin America. I think because Italians in Italy don't play enough baseball, growing up, to develop into pitchers. This is just a guess.
But it could explain why Italy tends to surprise then fizzle in international competitions like the World Baseball Classic. This year, for example, they upset Mexico and Canada in the first round, then lost out in the second. Their starting pitching holds, and then all hell breaks loose when you get into their bullpen.
Such is the state of soccer-dominant Europe, when it comes to trying to use their hands and arms at something. There's a promising Italian national in the Seattle farm system (Alex Liddi), and one of my favorite current major leaguers is Netherlands-born shortstop Didi Gregorious, of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Oh, and the Bundesliga in Germany has a team called the Dohren Wild Farmers. That's who I want to play for.
When I grow up.