Results tagged ‘ World Baseball Classic ’

1000 Words: Rizzo plates three but Italy falls

RizzoWBC2

(Photo by Tom DiPace/Getty Images)

In a heartbreaking come-from-behind affair, Puerto Rico knocked out Team Italy 4-3 in an elimination game Wednesday night in the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park in Miami. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo did everything he could to keep his adopted country’s Cinderella run alive, plating all three of the Italian squad’s runs with a fifth-inning double. Rizzo was 1-for-3 with two walks on the day.

Rizzo helps Italy into second round

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(Photo by Barry Gossage/Getty Images)

Anthony Rizzo is going to be away from Cubs Spring Training camp a little longer than most anticipated.

The slugging first baseman is representing the Italian squad in the 2013 version of the World Baseball Classic, a tournament which has seen the European country fend off favorites Mexico and Canada to reach the second round. And Rizzo, who has hit in the heart of the order for the Azzurri, has played a key role in his squad’s success.

In the opening matchup against Mexico on Thursday, the 23-year-old finished the day 2-for-5 with two RBI, accounting for the game-tying and winning runs. Trailing by a run with men on first and third in the top of the ninth, Rizzo hit a soaring fly ball to left field, which looked like a sacrifice fly. But Mexican outfielder Edgar Gonzalez lost the ball in the afternoon sun, and it bounced off his glove, scoring both runners and ultimately giving Italy the 6-5 win.

The Italian squad crushed Canada 14-4 on Friday, and though Rizzo didn’t have a hit, his impact was still felt. The first baseman finished 0-for-3 with a pair of walks. He got the scoring started in the bottom of the first when he grounded out with a man on third. He also scored two runs as the Italians clinched their trip to the next round.

On Saturday, Rizzo’s team jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the USA, but was ultimately overmatched by an American side some have favored to win the tournament. Rizzo had a single in the 6-2 loss.

Italy begins play in the double-elimination second round on Tuesday against the Dominican Republic.

Rizzo leaves for World Baseball Classic Monday

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(Illustration by Jerry Neumann)

Patriotism is nothing new for athletes.

Take the pregame ceremonies of the Super Bowl. People were so sure Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was going to shed a tear during the national anthem, Vegas bookmakers threw up prop bets on it (he didn’t).

This month, baseball players from around the globe will demonstrate their national pride when they represent their countries in the third edition of the International Baseball Federation’s World Baseball Classic.

The first WBC in 2006 was a cultural hit, pitting nations against each other in baseball’s version of soccer’s World Cup. Though no member of the Cubs was selected to manager Joe Torre’s U.S. squad for 2013, first baseman Anthony Rizzo will be playing for Italy.

“I’d love to play for [the U.S.]. That was my first choice, but they have all the ‘mon-stars’ on there,” Rizzo said during the Cubs Caravan. “Italy is a great opportunity. I come from a strong Italian background.”

Rizzo was selected because his great-grandfather hails from Sicily. Former Cub Tony Campana also wanted to play for the Italian squad, but was unable to produce a birth certificate from his grandparents.

“I think it’s great that guys want to represent where they’ve come from,” said Brandon Hyde, the Cubs’ director of player development. “They take a  lot of pride in that.”

Former Cubs Michael Barrett, Derrek Lee, Henry Blanco and Carlos Zambrano competed in the first Classic, while Kosuke Fukudome, Ted Lilly, Carlos Marmol and Geovany Soto represented their home countries in 2009.

WBC action starts March 2, with the finals taking place March 19 at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Team Italy, which is in Pool D, doesn’t get underway until March 7 versus Mexico. Rizzo won’t have to travel far, as Pool D plays in Phoenix, Ariz. Team Italy will play Team USA March 9 at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.

The annual ritual: Photo Day

ON LOCATION LOGO.jpgMESA, Ariz.—Every year, major-league ballplayers must endure an annual ritual of combing their hair, shaving their faces clean (or at least somewhat) and mugging for the camera. It is Photo Day for them, and they put their best faces forward, despite the fact it’s 7:00 in the morning.

The entire first floor of Fitch Park is turned into a massive photo studio. Among the participants, the Associated Press, Major League Baseball, Topps and Comcast, among others. It’s all put together very efficiently and organized, led by media relations director Peter Chase and his staff. Our staff photographer Steve Green organizes the photographers in location.

For the most part, all the players arrive at their designated times, albeit bleary eyed. There are very compliant to whatever poses we ask them to do. Steve and I are there to do a special photo shoot for our gameday program, CUBS2009. We had scripted the poses beforehand knowing we wouldn’t have more than a minute with each one.

photoshoot.jpgThe shoot went swimmingly. We got some great shots Geovany Soto and Ivan DeJesus modeling the WBC jersey of their home country Puerto Rico. We also got a couple and of Mike Fontenot and Carlos Zambrano doing their pregame routine of “Z” hammering “Font” into the ground. They were very playful and the shots turned out great. But to see them, you’ll have to get the program at Wrigley Field!!!!

We also got Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden playing hockey with hockey sticks and using a baseball as a puck. Tremendous. Chad Gaudin and Reed Johnson seem like they are in a competition to see who can look most like a billy goat. Perhaps when they finally shave off their goatees, we can say we killed the “curse of the billy goat!”

Of course, then there was manager Lou Piniella, who’s seen his fair share of photo days. In fact, say Lou, how many of these photo days have you seen?

“Too many,” he laughed.

However, Cubs legend Billy Williams skipped photo day and went straight out to the field..

“‘Greenie!’ You don’t need me, right? Man, you got enough pictures of me after all these years. Look, after you turn 65, your face don’t change much year to year,” Williams said, cracking up all the photographers.

Hey, when a Hall of Famer says he doesn’t want to take a picture, he doesn’t have to take a picture.

Thumbnail image for azmg102 2-17-09.jpgWe also worked with Morry Gash, the photographer from AP. I asked him for a photo that he shot the other day. It was such a candid shot of Alfonso Soriano that I had to ask him if we could just borrow it for the blog.

But altogether, the photo shoot–and day–worked out very well….I’d encourage everyone to check out the gameday program the next time you’re at Wrigley Field. The pictures and experience was certainly worth more than a 1000 words.

–Mike Huang 

 PS. And one special note of sympathy goes out to our hitting coach Gerald Perry, who also was not at photo day. He lost his father last Friday to colon cancer. We are all thinking about you, G.

 

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