Baseball fans might be surprised to learn their game is, arguably, the world’s second most popular team sport after soccer/football. Baseball’s roots are strong in countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands and even calcio-mad Italy. It arrived in Italy at the end of WWII and was first played in Lazio. US servicemen taught the game to youths who helped their liberators bury the dead – after the bloody Anzio landings – in the nearby US War cemetery, now an attraction for visiting Americans. The game spread and is most popular in Nettuno (in Rome Province), Bologna (recent winners of the Italian series), Parma, Milan, Rimini and Grosseto.
Nettuno, situated in southern Lazio, near Anzio, is the historic powerhouse of Italian baseball hence its choice as host for the 27 September final of the Baseball World Cup. The tournament – involving teams from 22 countries – is being played across Europe from 9 to 27 September with group matches in Croatia, Germany, Spain, Sweden and The Czech Republic before the final stages in Italy and The Netherlands.
The Rome Province’s councillor for sport Patrizia Prestipino told TRF, “I’ve always believed that Nettuno was the ideal spot for the final, its baseball tradition is so strong and the local team is always involved at the business end of the Italian and European series.”
She and other local leaders, including the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, have been promoting the tournament around the world – in the USA, South and Central America, Asia. Even the Nettuno mayor Alessio Chiavetta has been busy, drumming up interest in Cuba. Prestipino believes it will “boast tourism” in Nettuno and at Lazio’s other seaside towns.
Rome’s profile as a city of sport has shot up in 2009; Baseball comes hot on the heels of the World Swimming championships, the Giro d’Italia and the UEFA Champions League final besides other key annual events like the Rome Masters (tennis), Six Nations (rugby) and Piazza di Siena horse show. Next year the city hosts the World Volleyball championships.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
World Cup Baseball Action in Nettuno
World Cup Baseball in Rome: