Baseball may seem like a very American game but it caught on to other countries quickly, especially after the Second World War. Although the game was first played in the 1880’s, Europe has always been part of the football craze and baseball is still a relatively new thing. The sport gained popularity when the American soldiers began teaching it to the children during their postings during the war. As with many American games and customs, it gained favor with the locals of the places they were stationed at, and this game had its first championship in 1948.
Today, Italy has a major league and a championship known as the Scudetto in which many teams vie for the trophy after getting through the playoff series. Italy has something similar to Major League Baseball and it is known as the Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball and this organization operates all the major baseball leagues in Italy.
Comprised of ten teams, the A1 league is the topmost premier league where the teams in this tier play 54 games of the season. The top four teams will participate in the playoffs which feature a best of seven semi-finals and also a best of seven Italian championships that better known as “Lo Scudetto”. There is a good shuffle around which gives teams from the A2 league to be promoted to the top premier league. The two teams that have the poorest performance get demoted to the A2 league and the two best performing teams of the A2 league get promoted to the A1 league.
How did the game reach the shore of Italy?
During WW2, American soldiers occupied parts of Italy to free Rome from the Nazis. Of course, the US troops did not come empty handed. Apart from guns, ammunition and warfare equipment, they also got candy and baseball mitts and bats. The sport helped them to keep their mind off the war and they taught the local children the sport. However, the war ended the next year, and most of Italy did forget about the game, apart from a few places that took to the game like fish to water.
It was this sport that united the American and Italian troops while the cemetery was built to honor the thousands of soldiers that fell during the war. On their breaks from work, all the soldiers would gather to a nearby field and play this sport and this is how the sport lives on to this day.
The children of certain Italian towns learn how to play baseball in school and they end up competing in local leagues. Many of these children grow up to be a part of the Major Italian leagues, winning European Championships as well as many of them getting signed to Major League baseball organizations in America. When the Baseball championships take place, you will see many of the locals staying up late at night to tune in to watch the live coverage of the World Series.
They’re not cheering for football as most tourists would think, but for baseball. It is also quite common to see many children being decked out in uniforms belonging to various US Major League Baseball teams that are competing in the Baseball World Cup.
When asked why the game became so popular, especially in a country that is mad about football and also in a country that is surrounded by countries who are football fanatics themselves, the locals replied that a player has more to do in Baseball. The player has a chance to pitch, to play the outfield, to bat. That’s baseball the Italian Way.