Now into his second year of retirement, former All-Star catcher Mike Piazza is lending a hand as a hitting coach for Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
The first stage of Spring Training is nearly over, prompting the Orioles to look down the line. Baltimore will have just one more day of spring practice before playing its first game, an exhibition against Team Italy that isn't on any schedule and likely won't include many players with big league experience.
Team Italy will have Italian-American players, but as a native who's also playing for a Major League organization, the Cubs' Alessandro Maestri is a rare exception.
The Orioles have 11 players on World Baseball Classic provisional rosters, including three prospects proud to play for Team Italy.
In 2009, Italy will have a new manager -- Marco Mazzieri, who became manager of the Italian national team in 2007, will replace Matt Galante -- and a new chance to make a name for itself on the international stage.
Most were not sure what to expect at the outset of the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, but at the end of the tournament, even the most hardcore skeptics had to admit its overwhelming success.
Changes are being made to the 2009 World Baseball Classic from its '06 debut. One of the biggest is the format of the first round, which will feature a double-elimination format, as opposed to a round robin. The semifinals and finals will be held at Dodger Stadium.