Tuesday, January 22, 2013

World Baseball Classic Preview: Italian National Team

     Italy! A nation known for great food, beautiful landmarks, fantastic culture, and baseball? Yes, baseball. This spring, Italy will compete in the third installment of the World Baseball Classic; Once again, with high hopes of making it out of the first round of pool play.

     That was, perhaps, a little bit cruel to a nation which prides itself in other athletic areas than the baseball diamond. However, the rude awakening might as well happen now, before dreams are shattered against the likes of the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

     Yes, Italy is currently ranked 9th in the world for all nations fielding baseball programs. That being said, they are, what most would considder, generously ranked 2 spots ahead of Mexico, and 5 ahead of the Dominican Republic. Do the rankings need a facelift? Perhaps past #3. (Rankings)

     Regardless, let us take the optimistic outlook on their forthcoming Pool D. performance, and review the high points of the green, white, and red roster. The most notable pithers on Italy's roster are that of Pittsburgh Pirate Jason Grilli, and former major leaguer Brian Sweeney. Behind the plate, some may recognize the name Francisco Cervelli; a Yankees minor leaguer with major league experience. In the field: Alex Liddi of the Mariners, Nick Punto of the Dodgers, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, and Chris Denorfia of the Padres. No, it's not comparable to the Dominican Republic or the United States rosters, but stranger things have happened in baseball than an upset. The games still need to be played.

     The Italians, however, do have one of the nicest on field 59/50 New Era Caps in the entire tournament. Above, is the official WBC cap of Italy. It features a royal blue cap and crown, with a sleek looking capital "I" centered on the front. On the left side, is the Italian flag of green, white, and red. On the back is the WBC logo. HERE  is where you can buy the cap if you'd like.

     Tomorrow, we feature Puerto Rico. See you then.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

World Baseball Classic Preview: United States of America National Team

     In a mere 48 days, the United States of America will try to capture the ever-elusive crown of World Baseball Classic Champion. For this group of state-side all-stars, let's hope that the third time really is the charm.

     Over the two previous installments of the WBC (World Baseball Classic), The United States has fielded very talented teams, by standards, but has fallen short of the ultimate goal each time. Regardless of names like Griffey and Rodriguez on the team in 2006, and Jeter and Rollins in 2009, the Red, White, and Blue has had no one to blame but themselves for their shortcomings. With a second round elimination in 2006, and a fourth place finish in 2009, a better result is expected by all from the nation credited for the invention of the game.

     In this years edition, The U.S. will begin play in Pool D, against Mexico, at Chase Field, in Phoenix, Arizona on Friday, March 8 at 9 P.M. (ET). Along with those two clubs, Pool D consists of Canada's and Italy's National Teams. Once again, there seems to be no shortage of talent on the U.S.A. Roster this time around.

     In 2013, The United States pitching rotation will consist of starters the likes of R.A. Dickey, Derek Holland, and 2012 World Series Champion Ryan Vogelsong. The bullpen features notables such as Heath Bell, Craig Kimbrel, and Kris Medlen. In the field, We'll see players such as Mark Teixeira, David Wright, Giancarlo (Mike) Stanton, Adam Jones, and Ryan Braun. Rounding out the field, behind the plate, the U.S. will feature former batting champion Joe Mauer. If all that wasn't enough, the team is expected to be coached by former 9 time All-Star and 2 time manager of the year Joe Torre.

     Needless to say, for the U.S. National Team, failure is most certainly not an option. Teams to look out for this WBC will undoubtedly be Cuba, Japan, and as always the Dominican Republic. 

     Although baseball is widely considdered to be "America's Game", the World Baseball Classic is as good of a reminder as anything of how quickly and vastly this game has grown. It truly is an amazing sight to see places like Great Britain and Pakistan ranked in the top 25 of National Baseball Teams in the world. The sky really is the limit. (Full rankings here).

     The cap above, which is the official on-field fitted of team USA, features a navy blue brim and crown, with an interlocking "U" and "S" in front of a silver star centered on the front. on the cap-bearers left side-pannel the flag of the United States of America is stitched on. On the back is the logo of the World Baseball Classic, centered across the two back-pannels. 

     The official New Era Cap can be found HERE

     The tournament begings Saturday, March 2, with Japan, a host nation, playing Brazil in group A. Let the debate begin ladies and gentleman. Oh, and by the way; BASEBALL IS BACK.