Luca Panerati is slated to start for Team Italy on Saturday night against Team USA, in a game that could eliminate the Americans from the World Baseball Classic.
A brief bio: Panerati was born in Grossetto, Italy. He pitched in the Cincinnati farm system from 2008 until 2011, when he was released. The 23-year-old left-hander spent last season in his homeland, pitching for Bologna of the Italian Baseball League, and has contemplated the possibility of playing in Japan.
Panerati’s role model in this itinerant pitching life?
Naturally, R.A. Dickey.
“I was reading R.A. Dickey’s book,” Panerati said Friday, as he stood on the field before Italy’s 14-4 triumph over Canada. “It’s a crazy story. That really made me realize if you get released by a team, it doesn’t mean you don’t belong. You decide when it’s over – just you.
“Nobody can tell you that you can’t pitch. Nobody can tell you that you can’t run. Nobody can tell you that you can’t hit. It’s just you. You’ve got to believe in yourself. You have to be confident in what you’re doing. It’s a small edge between being confident and cocky. If you keep it to yourself, it helps a lot.”
Dickey’s personal and professional journey to last year’s National League Cy Young Award has become familiar to baseball fans throughout the world, but his signature knuckleball was less effective than usual in Friday’s loss to Mexico.
Panerati said he would love to meet Dickey during the tournament.
“I would say (to him that) he has an amazing story, and it was a great idea to tell everybody,” Panerati said. “I don’t think everybody has perseverance he had, completely changing his life, pretty much, from a conventional pitcher to the knuckleball.
“It’s not just about baseball. It’s about a life revolving around baseball, how his family supports him. It would be awesome to meet him and say congratulations that he made it and won the Cy Young Award last year.”
-- Jon Paul Morosi