On Italy's WBC team, predominant language is English

MESA, Ariz. (AP) " The predominant language used on Italy's World Baseball Classic team is English, with a little Italian and some Spanish mixed in. But everyone understands "I got it!"

Fly ball drills in the Arizona sun were a bit of an adventure during a workout Tuesday, two days ahead of an opener at Mexico in Guadalajara.

"The appeal is the emotion, the competition, the friendship," said third base coach Nick Punto, who has played in two WBCs and is a coach for the first time. "There's not one ego out here. There's not one person that isn't playing for that 'I' on their chest."

First-time participant Daniel Descalso, an Arizona Diamondbacks utility infielder, is honoring his heritage.

"For me it's a great opportunity to represent where my family came from," Descalso said. "You only get so many opportunities to do something like this."

Descalso lined an RBI double over the left fielder in the third inning of Italy's exhibition against the Chicago Cubs.

"It's a playoff atmosphere every game," two-time participant Chris Colabello of the Cleveland Indians said. "It's the true definition of sandlot baseball, because you're really out there figuring out a way to win the game.

Nobody's worried about their own numbers."

Colabello, who played first base Tuesday against the Cubs, holds both American and Italian passports and spent his youth in both countries. He grew up playing international competitions with many of the Italian players on the WBC team.

"I didn't realize it growing up how fortunate I was to really experience both cultures and be really ingrained in both of them," the 33-year-old said. "The last tournament, people joked with me, 'What do you need to do to, eat a meatball sub to be on the Italian team?' And I was like, well, it's a little different for me. Anyone who knows me knows Italy has meant a lot to my development as a person and as a player. I take a lot of pride in wearing the uniform."

Italy's best WBC showing came in 2013, when it advanced out of the first round with wins over Mexico and Canada and lost one-run games to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in the second round.

"The last tournament was such a building block for us because we established that we could play with anyone in the world," Colabello said.

Punto said manager Marco Mazzieri creates a family-like atmosphere for the players. Punto and the other current and former big leaguers impart wisdom to the players from Italy, where the domestic teams plays twice a week.

"It's extremely rewarding to see a kid look you in the eyes, listen to you and then go out there and execute exactly what we were just working on," Punto said.

While soccer is Italy's No. 1 sport by far, baseball continues to grow.

"The way to get big is to shock the world, and that's our plan," Punto said.

NOTE: Anthony Rizzo, who played for Italy in 2013 but opted not to participate in this year's WBC, got a pat on the shoulder from Italy catcher Francisco Cervelli as prepared for his first at-bat. Cervelli, who is from Venezuela and is among five Latin Americans on Italy, hit a two-run single in the third for a 3-0 lead.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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