Matt Galante manages Italy

The Baseball Federation of Italy announced that Matt Galante will be their manager for the inaugural World Baseball Classic next spring

The coaching staff of Italian team will include all-time left-hander saves record keeper John Franco as pitching coach, 2004 Athens Olympics skipper Giampiero Faraone as assistant manager, former big-league shortstop Gary DiSarcina; European scout for the Seattle Mariners Mauro Mazzotti, and 1984 Olympics Italy coach Jim Mansilla.

Galante, from New York, currently acting as special assistant to general manager Tim Purpura, has spent 23-year with Houston Astros. He was approached by Major League Baseball in June to manage the Italian team, and once he received permission from Purpura, Galante decided to lead Italy.

“It’s kind of exciting because it’s a new thing,” Galante said. “Major League Baseball is 100 percent behind it, so that’s a good thing.”

“My grandmother was born in Gaeta and told me a lot about our country of origin,” 1995 AL All-Star DiSarcina, who attended Italy’s annual baseball award ceremony on Dec. 8 and appeared open to further work with the Italian federation, said. “I would have never played in the big leagues if it weren’t for her support, and I believe it’s time for me to give something back to this country. You never know what’s going to happen when the tournament starts. Italy is going to compete; we are going to be a good team.”

Mazzotti has won league title in Italy with Bologna three times when he is a manager. He will manage the Champions of Europe for Grosseto of the Italian Series A League in 2006.

As the former Italian National Team head coach, Mansilla coached Italy in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. He is currently coaching at Miami Dade Junior College.

Preliminary rosters have not yet been announced, but it seems that several Italian-Americans from Major League Baseball are likely to be included on Italy’s team, include all-star catcher Mike Piazza.

“I don’t know if we have anyone else that can play his position,” Italian baseball federation president Riccardo Fraccari said. “He’s already working on his papers.”

Players who agree to participate in the World Baseball Classic with Italy team include Mike DiFelice, Frank Catalanotto, Mark DeRosa, David Dellucci, Tony Fiore, Mike Gallo, Jason Grilli, Matt Mantei, Frank Menechino, Doug Mirabelli, Val Pascucci, Joe Vitello and Pete Zoccolillo.

For outfielder Frank Catalanotto, who was selected to play for the Italian team even though he’s never been to Italy. The closest connection for Catalanotto is that his great-grandparents hail from Sicily. That was enough for Gene Orza, the players’ association chief operating officer who is the representative of union for the tournament.

Orza telephoned Catalanotto in September to tell him he was on a list of players eligible to play for Italy. Infielder Frank Menechino also got a call.

The long time resident of Long Island, N.Y. says he and Menechino, who hails from nearby Staten Island, N.Y., realize baseball officials would be hard-pressed to field a competitive team of native Italians and aren’t worried about anyone questioning their true heritage.

“We’re Italians from New York,” Catalanotto said. “And Italians from New York are pretty proud to be Italians.”

Fraccari added that 33 locally based players would be sent to major league spring training in mid-February, and several of those players will be selected for Italy’s team.

There has been an “enormous amount of ticket requests” for the event within Italy. “Travel agencies are already organizing charter planes to go over,” Fraccari said.

“We’re hoping the others continue to work with us beyond the classic also,” Fraccari said, adding that the federation is trying to arrange an appearance by Galante and Piazza in Italy to promote the tournament.

The Italian squad will train at Lakeland on March 3 to 6; will begin to play against Australia on March 7, Venezuela on March 8, and Dominican Republic on March 9 at the Disney sports complex.