Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Italian Manager Exits Tournament Play with Optimism for the Future

By Nick Fathergill
For Europe-Africa Region manager Marco Bortolotti, Emilia Little League’s trip to Williamsport can be an important step in cultivating interest in baseball back in Italy.

Despite a disappointing exit for Europe-Africa after losing their consolation game to Northwest, 6-2, the 23-year-old Italian manager thinks playing in such a major tournament will bring more attention to baseball back home.

“Back in Italy, there was a baseball series, but it had maybe 2,000 fans,” said Mr. Bortolotti. “In Williamsport, you have thousands and thousands of fans. It is much more followed than the Italian baseball series.”

Mr. Bortolotti has seen plenty of baseball in his hometown of Bologna in the Emilia region of Italy. He began to play at nine, but he needed a way to stay involved with the game when he turned 16.

“I had two choices to remain in baseball in Emilia – to umpire or to become a coach,” he said. “I tried to umpire some games, but I didn’t really like it, so I became a coach.”

Having immersed himself in the sport, he acknowledges the challenges of fielding competitive baseball teams in Italy.

“The sports in Italy that are more followed are soccer, basketball, volleyball – baseball is at the bottom of the rank,” said Mr. Bortolotti. “So, it is difficult for us to have players at the field, and our selection is based on a small numbers.”

In addition to increasing popularity, Bortolotti hopes Emilia’s trip to Williamsport will help future teams from Italy gain a better sense of how to approach the Little League Baseball® World Series. “I have to tell Italians how difficult Williamsport is, and how difficult it is to coach here…because it is much harder than in Italy,” he said. “Most importantly, I have to make sure the next team to come here is better prepared.”

Despite the drawbacks, Bortolotti is excited for the future of Italian baseball, especially in Little League®. “This time around, I know we had a lot of fun,” he said. “I hope there will be another opportunity in the next few years.”

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