TORONTO - Seventeen-year-old Alessandro Volpe achieved a historic first for a Canadian. As reported in our online agency CNMNG News on Friday, he has received confirmation that he has been named to the ‘Azzurri” (Italy’s) National U18 Baseball team.
Inspired and led by former MLB superstar and Hall of Famer Mike Piazza (among the last in his graduating class to be “drafted”), the Italian program is becoming a rising power in the sport. It is the defending silver medalist from the 2021 U18 European championships. And it has already qualified for the U18 World Cup, in Florida this September.
Alessandro Volpe will travel with the team to the Czech Republic as it tries to unseat the Netherlands, Europe’s current champions, starting August 13. Participation in the program at the European and international level Is limited to citizens who hold a passport for their country.
While born and raised in Canada, Alessandro has always stayed close to his roots. Three of his grandparents immigrated to Canada in the fifties and sixties. “I was lucky,” claims Alessandro, “my Nonna Mirella was still a citizen of Italy when my dad was born. I was able to qualify for this team because she passed that citizenship gift to me, through my dad. I will be thinking of her when I wear my Azzurri uniform for the first time.”
His coaches think that a strong work ethic and commitment to the game since deciding that this is the path he wanted to follow, as a nine-year old, has been the difference.
Locally, coaches and aficionados of the game recognize Alessandro for his quiet, relentless training regimen. When pushed, he says he has “hit every day” since he decided to pursue baseball as a career in 2015. Raf Choudhury, owner of Baseline Sports, Toronto’s premier baseball training facility, says “Alessandro has been here on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, Mother’s Day and every other day that hasn’t been a game day since we first met him at 9 years old.“ (in the pic below)
Viral videos of his training began to surface in 2016 and 2017 of him hitting 100 pound punching bags with a bat to simulate resistance when ball strikes bat, and he connecting with 90 miles-per-hour pitches (major league level speeds) as a 12-year-old.
Moreover, Alessandro, as a product of the independent Toronto Cubs baseball program, and the Marucci Prospects baseball club, has travelled extensively throughout the United States, Canada and now Europe and Italy, learning from and competing against some of the best talent in the world.
As one would expect, he is no stranger to the spotlight, his international baseball journey has been covered by media in the US and Canada (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Citytv).
A player with a reputation for delivering under pressure, Alessandro first caught the attention of Team Italia last year with some impressive achievements. He hit an outstanding .400 at the prestigious 2021 PBR National Championships in Atlanta.
In the same year Alessandro was named to the 2021 all-Ontario team by St. Louis, Missouri’s Between the Lines, a showcase and recruitment agency, after he competed and hit successfully as a 16-year-old against top NCAA Division 1 University teams last fall in the USA. This year, he hit .412 with a .500 on-base percentage and a .626 slugging percentage. Outstanding numbers that are bound to raise some eyebrows, he has also had at least two doubles in a game in three different countries.
Through it all, he has remained humble. “It is an honour to be named to the Italian National team”, says Alessandro, “I hope I can help a strong program add to its great championship history.”
It does not come across as false modesty. Alessandro travelled to Italy for three tough rounds of tryouts conducted by national team manager Francesco Aluffi. Alessandro’s 3-hit performance in Milano last month earned him the confidence of the veteran Aluffi.
“I am eager to repay his confidence by playing my heart out for his team next month at the tournaments”, says Alessandro. He has additional incentive. This is his last year of High School (2022-2023).
Next year (2023-2024), he is planning to enroll in a USA College baseball program, and, if things go well, he may also enter the Major League Baseball draft that year. He has received expressions of interest from six (6) college teams, so far, as he heads to New Jersey for the biggest college baseball “showcase” in the US this week.
Organizers expect coaches from 70 colleges (and some pro clubs) in attendance. They will get a chance to see one of Toronto’s own perform. He may well be key to the Azzurri’s quest for the European Championship and the World Cup of Baseball.