On my last trip to Italy, I was hoping to attend an Italian NFL football game. Actually, it was the ‘Silverbowl’. Unfortunately, Paola wasn’t feeling well, so we ended up skipping it. Still, while browsing one of the sites, I followed a few links. One of them brought me to the Italian Baseball League. I discovered that there was a game on July 1st in a town not too far from where I am (Actually, it ended up being about 80 miles away).
So I figured, what the hell! It is important to note that the Italians have 3 major sports: Soccer, Soccer, and Soccer. Well, to be perfectly fair, they also follow Soccer. So, the fact that I discovered a baseball league was something I couldn’t pass up. So I made the trek to Grosseto, home of the Grosseto Prink Orioles, the team that just won the European World Cup of Baseball, as well as the Italian Championships last year. They are in the Italian version of the majors (Series A1). What I discovered when I arrived at the ballpark was awesome!! The ‘stadium’ was much larger than I had anticipated. I would say that it could stand against many minor league fields in the US. More impressive was the crowd… THEY HAD ONE! Remember, if you ask 1,000 Italians, maybe ONE can tell you the difference between a strike and a ball. OK, so there is probably a curiosity factor. Still, it is a crowd.
The game is about to start, and Mickey Mouse (really) throws the first pitch. The game starts, and I very quickly realize that these fans (around 1500 – 2000 of them) are real fans. They know the game and are there for their team. No curiosity factor here.
The game moves on scoreless… inning after inning. The players were pretty good. I wouldn’t say any were good enough for U.S. Minors but pretty close.
All the while, I am there with a local friend of mine, to whom I am teaching the ins and outs of baseball. As the top of the 7th is about to end, I tell him about a tradition we call the 7th inning stretch. While I am still explaining it, the batter strikes out and all of the sudden they start playing ‘Take me out to the ball game’ over the loudspeakers as the announcer announces the 7th inning stretch. Too cool!
After the song, the announcer mentions the presence of some Americans from Boston at the game. Apparently, that was somewhat akin to mentioning the presence of a few rock stars 🙂
I ended up meeting the Americans, as well as the announcer (Ciao Guido), and he ends up announcing yet another American from Los Angeles… Wow! I’m famous now!
In any case, we get to the bottom of the 9th, still scoreless and go into extra innings. The game finally ends at around midnight at the bottom of the 12th, the home team victorious.
Believe it or not, it was more fun than any Dodgers game I have ever been to!