Mexico is Home Away from Home for Team Italy’s Alex Liddi
By Roberto Angotti
Team Italy corner infielder Alex Liddi entered the history books when he became the first Italian-born-and-developed player to play in Major League Baseball (MLB). Liddi made his Major League debut for the Seattle Mariners on September 7, 2011 at age 23 after being signed by Mariners scouts Wayne Norton and Mauro Mazzotti in 2005. He spent eight years in the Seattle organization before playing in his second consecutive World Baseball Classic (WBC) for Team Italy in 2013. Liddi returns to the home stadium for his former Mexican Baseball League team Charros de Jalisco to play in his third WBC in Pool D action between Italy, Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico beginning March 9, 2017.
Four years ago the San Remo native wasted no time in making his presence felt in the Tempe, Arizona desert. In a WBC warm up exhibition game against Italian American manager Mike Scioscia’s Los Angeles Angels, Liddi went 2-for-3 with a double, a two-run home run and three RBI. The Italian power hitter continued his hot-hitting streak and played stellar defense at third base during the first two WBC games against Mexico and Canada. He literally wrecked havoc on opposing pitchers by going 4-for-7 with two walks, three runs scored and three RBI. The two wins over Mexico and Canada ensured Team Italy’s advancement to the second round in Miami along with Team USA against eventual 2013 WBC Champion Dominican Republic and runner up Puerto Rico.
Despite his strong performance in the WBC, Alex Liddi was traded from Seattle to Baltimore in 2013. After flying away from the Orioles at the end of the season, he ventured south to play in the Mexican Pacific League with the Tomateros de Culiacán. Upon his return from Mexico in 2014, Liddi had short stints in the White Sox and Dodgers organizations before signing with the Kansas City Royals on December 28, 2014. He was named 2015 Texas League Mid-Season All-Star playing for Kansas City Double-A affiliate Northwest Arkansas but never got the opportunity to join fellow Team Italy comrade Drew Butera on the 2015 World Champion Royals.
Liddi returned to Mexico to play for Charros de Jalisco, where he hit .312 in 58 games played with 17 doubles, seven home runs and 36 RBI. Alex hopes to replicate his success at the plate of his former home stadium to catapult Team Italy to the second round of WBC action at Petco Park in San Diego. A former Charros de Jalisco fan favorite, Italian slugger Alex Liddi may receive a warm welcome back cheer out of respect from those locals who remember his renaissance season in Guadalajara.
While abroad, Liddi was heavily scouted by MLB. In the end, Baltimore re-signed the international sensation on January 12, 2016; however, young Oriole All-Star infielder Manny Mac
haod stood in his way of becoming an everyday player on the Big League level. Instead, Liddi chose to sign with 2015 Mexican Baseball League Champion Tigres de Quintana Roo on April 1, 2016. Hitting a respectable .281 in 110 games played, Alex led the Tigres in doubles (28), triples (4), home runs (23), RBI (91), total bases (220) and slugging percentage (.538). He also was crowned 2016 All-Star Home Run Derby Champion by launching 12 homers that cleared the outfield fences with ease.
During the Mexican Baseball League playoffs, Liddi was in demand for teams needing reinforcement as he was recruited to play for both Águilas de Mexicali and Yaquis de Obregón. The Mexican baseball accolades continued for Alex as he later became the first Italian to play in the Caribbean Series when joining 2016 Mexican Champion Venados de Mazatlán. Better known as Serie del Caribe or the Caribbean World Series, Latin America’s highest competitive baseball tournament at the club level features the respective champions from Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. In his final four games playing for Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlán, Liddi went 4-for-17 with a triple and a double to help the Mexico become 2016 Caribbean Series Champion.
After playing for Team Italy in the 2016 European Baseball Championship, Liddi underwent left knee surgery in late October. Recovering from reconstructive surgery of his ACL in his left knee, Liddi worked diligently with Team Italy trainers Gianni Natale and Massimo Baldi to rehabilitate under the guidance of manager Marco Mazzieri so that he would be ready for the 2017 WBC. During a recent interview, Liddi described the beloved Team Italy manager as his friend and mentor. He credited Mazzieri for much of his success in baseball and considered him inspirational in making his long-awaited return to MLB. Liddi said, “Marco is someone I always say thanks to for my career. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here right now. I am really close to him as a friend, a person, and a baseball player as well. He knows me better than anybody else. Even if he’s in Italy, he always texts me during the season to check up on me and give me tips. I want to thank Marco for everything he has done for me. He wants me to return to the Big Leagues and be successful.”
Alex Liddi is the face of Italian baseball. The first player from Italy to play in the Major Leagues since 1954, Liddi was honored by former Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball (FIBS) president Riccardo Fraccari, who called him “a real ambassador of Italian baseball.” With the opportunity to spur the growth of baseball in Europe by competing at the sport’s highest level, Alex Liddi inspires young Italian athletes like Royals’ prospect Marten Gasparini to believe that playing Major League Baseball is a reality.
With the 2017 WBC on his mind, Liddi is more focused on Team Italy winning than anything else. Alex said, “Anytime you wear a jersey that says ‘Italia’ on your front, it is something different, something special. You feel like a family. All you care about is winning, nothing else is important.” In his home away from home, Mexico, Alex Liddi begins his comeback journey to Major League Baseball by playing for Team Italy in the 2017 World Baseball Classic in Jalisco.