Numbers on the scoreboard not as important as experience for Italy

Bologna, Italy’s, game with Salem, Oregon, this morning at 11 at Lamade Stadium won’t mean anything to either team. Both have been eliminated from the title race at the Little League World Series, and both are 0-2.

This morning’s consolation game is simply an opportunity for each team to play at least one more game in South Williamsport.

But Italy manager Francesco Lamanuzzi doesn’t necessarily care his team isn’t playing for a championship. Sure, Italy would love to still be in the winners’ bracket, but for a team whose roster contains four 10-year-old players, getting experience and playing games at the World Series is all that matters.

“The scoreboard is not important for us. For us, it’s important to get the experience,” said Lamanuzzi, whose team lost two games a combined 30-0. “We have four 10-year-olds on our team and four 11-year-olds. We are the youngest team in the tournament. … For me, and I try to explain to my guys, the scoreboard is not important. What’s important is the experience.”

That’s why losing 20-0 to Japan on Thursday and 10-0 Saturday to Canada aren’t the worst things to happen. Sure, it eliminates Italy from title contention, but to be able to experience the World Series and get that under their belts for next year is what matters most for some of the youngest players in the tournament.

There was no tone of disappointment in Lamanuzzi’s voice when he talked to the media following the elimination loss to Canada.

“It’s important to be here and be experienced and play here. The situation didn’t work for us, but no problem,” Lamanuzzi.

No problem at all.

In Italy, and the rest of Europe, baseball is slowly, but surely, growing and gaining popularity. On a continent where soccer is king, baseball isn’t exactly a national pastime like it is in America. Lamanuzzi is hoping that’s starting to change and baseball gains traction.

In the past year, Lamanuzzi noticed a drop in youth baseball participation. But he also noticed that teams with the youngest players in the league didn’t have the best coaches. Rather, the best coach was coaching the older players.

There was that disconnect to develop younger players and help them build their skill.

“In Italy in the past, the general manager or president (of leagues) thought that the best coach should be on the senior team. It’s not the right way I think,” Lamanuzzi said. “And someone in Italy came to understand that and had the best coach with the youngest players. For me, it’s the right way and I see that baseball has been coming up a little bit.”

Lamanuzzi’s ideology of having better coaches helping with younger players may be paying off, too.

Emilia Romagna Little League not only has this current team in the Little League World Series, but the league also sent a team to the Senior League World Series and also the Junior League World Series. The development of players is there and the growth is evident.

“We have three teams, all three teams are in the World Series. All three teams are Emilia Romagna,” Lamanuzzi said. “We are lucky for this, but we are the lead train of the movement in Italy. I think we are coming up. Slowly, but we are coming up and I repeat, the best coach with the youngest players is the right way for me.”

Don’t be surprised if Europe and Africa regional champions start competing better in the coming years at the World Series. After all, Lamanuzzi is fairly confident the competition is improving in Europe as a whole.

“I saw in 2013 and 2014 east European teams that are like us in this tournament, in the European tournament,” Lamanuzzi said. “This year, they make good plays, good game. The scoreboard is not 20-0, it’s 7-3, and they’re coming up.”

And that’s a good thing.


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