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Italy invades Phoenix, Mike Piazza handicaps the papal election

Mar 5, 2013, 1:53 PM EDT

Today’s matchup pits Team Italy against the A’s. The Italian team got here about an hour or so ago and is working out and taking BP now. They look like every other baseball team you’ll see. Except on this one, Nick Punto is probably the second best player. That doesn’t happen very often.

Oh, and one of their coaches might be their third best player:


Piazza seems to be in a good mood. He’s got a son on the way. He’s got a book out. Life is good. He’s also, apparently, a man of the world. I was talking to A’s broadcaster Vince Cotroneo when Piazza came over. They’ve known each other a while, and they began a friendly chat about things Italian. The subject of the new pope came up and Vince asked him “who he has in the pool.”

“I sort of like the old guy from Ghana,” Piazza said.  I guess he means Peter Turkson. “Old guy from Ghana” pretty much saps HBT’s knowledge of the higher reaches of the Catholic church.

I watched Italian BP for a while. This is probably my favorite BP pitcher in the history of forever:


I don’t know who he is. He’s wearing number 15 but the press information doesn’t list a player or coach on the Italian team with that number. I’m just going to pretend he slid here from another dimension. A dimension in which some baseball player suddenly found himself in a Fellini movie.

If you’re scoring at home here is the Italian lineup:

Nick Punto, 2B
Chris Denorfia, CF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Alex Liddi, 3B
Chris Colabello, DH
Mike Costanzo, LF
Mario Chiarini, RF
Drew Butera, C
Anthony Granato, SS

The starting pitcher is John Mariotti. Earlier it was listed as Luca Panerati. During his presser this morning, A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked if he knew anything about Panerati. Melvin paused for a few seconds and said “… I know he’s a pitcher.”

This should be a fun game. Can’t wait until the national anthems.

  1. ch0psuey - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    Those are some quality Italian last names.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      They need Tony Esposito as their catcher. Nothing could get past that guy (except shots by his brother Phil).

      • ch0psuey - Mar 5, 2013 at 3:01 PM

        I think Calcaterra could make the team based on surname..

  2. paint771 - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:16 PM

    Cardinal Turkson is an excellent choice – really, on the merits, a guy that anybody should be able to vote for. Unfortunately, due to rumors that he displayed some back acne in ’86, it will be difficult to garner the necessary support of the Conclave, who tend to skew older and more conservative.

  3. ctony1216 - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    You might want to find out who’s mom is cooking after the game, and go there.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:46 PM

      Someone’s mom is not cooking?

  4. zzalapski - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:32 PM

    Is it possible to make too many cracks at Nick Punto’s expense? I doubt it!

    • unclemosesgreen - Mar 5, 2013 at 11:33 PM

      You would say that, since you’re the devil’s Canadian cousin. Take off, eh?

      Nick Punto is my favorite living utility player, thanks to the extremely regrettable and unfortunate demise of Farney and Mr. Freel, the grittiest and most entertaining utility duet since Captain and Tennille.

      “Even Farney couldn’t believe that one.” R.I.P. Ryan Freel

  5. stlouis1baseball - Mar 5, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    I think C.C. has a man crush on Nick Punto.
    It’s understandable. After all…he is the shredder!

  6. sportsdrenched - Mar 5, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    How am I supposed to score at home with just the Italian line-up? I need to A’s line-up too.

  7. panealvino - Mar 5, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    I’m a HBT reading in Italy — and a journalist covering the papal transition among other things (Cardinal Turkson is the oddsmaker’s favorite, though I’d bet on it being an old Italian) — and it’s hilarious to hear them comment on the WBC here (there were a few snippets on news programs today). The funniest so far: they pronounce the “A’s” as if there were no apostrophe and an extra “s” …!

  8. historiophiliac - Mar 5, 2013 at 5:42 PM

    BTW, I am very disappointed in the Italians’ uniform. That is shameful. I hope they had capes or something when they came in and these are just training unis.

    • unclemosesgreen - Mar 5, 2013 at 8:46 PM

      They didn’t have capes, they had capers simmered with garlic and olive oil over fettucini topped with wilted spinach and fresh-grated reggiano. With several bottles of fine chianti. And no bread pudding.

      We should all be so fortunate.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 5, 2013 at 8:50 PM

        I like tiramisu as well…if that was an option.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:38 PM

        Tiramisu is never an option. It’s mandatory. And it’s NOT a bread pudding, dammit. It’s bread pudding’s sexy Italian cousin.

  9. glsmithassociates - Mar 5, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    I just spent a week at Dodgers ST where Italy was been working out and got a ball signed by the whole Italian team, but when I asked Piazza to sign he refused, several times. In fact he totally disrespected me for even asking, and I was very polite each time I asked. The entire Italian Team, including the Manager and other coaches were so grateful for being asked to sign. I guess his hate for the Dodgers runs deep!! It’s to bad, I for one used to really like the guy!!

    • ch0psuey - Mar 6, 2013 at 12:18 AM

      That is a ball I would really enjoy owning. very cool.

  10. unclemosesgreen - Mar 5, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    As a registered psychic I can tell you with 100% certainty that the next Pope will be an old, out-of-touch white guy with super-creepy headwear.

  11. unclemosesgreen - Mar 5, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    I actually have $10 on Jeff Daniels, but I bought the ticket to frame it.

  12. ET Sport - Mar 7, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    Hello Craig,

    “I watched Italian BP for a while. This is probably my favorite BP pitcher in the history of forever
    I don’t know who he is.

    what’s the problem, just ask and get the answer:
    the guy is Claudio Vecchi (fb profile:

    Now we are interested enough in knowing why he’s your favorite bp pitcher?…

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