Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where Are They Now? The 2009 Italian WBC Team, Part 3

Alex Liddi was born in Sanremo, less than an hour from the border of France in northwest Italy. He was signed by the Seattle Mariners just a month after his 17th birthday in 2005. He started two of Italy's three World Baseball Classic games in 2009, going 3-for-8 and driving in two runs, both in the team's 6-2 upset victory over Canada.

Following the WBC, Liddi proceeded to tear apart the high-A California League, batting .345 with 44 doubles, 23 HR and 104 RBI in 129 games for the High Desert Mavericks. This performance won him league MVP and the Mariners' 2009 Minor League Player of the Year honors. For a little perspective, though, I should point out that the California League is a hitters' league and High Desert is an extreme hitters' ballpark.

Liddi was promoted to AA this year and turned in a solid season for the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx. While his numbers were not as eye-popping as those he produced last year, he did lead the league in RBI with 92, while batting .281 with 37 doubles and 15 HR in 134 games. Having just turned 22 in August, Liddi's 2010 performance showed definite progression and, while I'm far from an expert on the Mariners farm system, there's a strong chance he'll be promoted to AAA in 2011.

According to Wikipedia, Alex is the first Italian-born position player to play professional baseball in the United States. However, this is not true. Reno Bertoia (1953-1962) and Hank Biasetti (1949) were major league players born in Italy, but since they both grew up in Canada rather than Italy, I suspect this is where the Wikipedia article is misinformed. Regardless, if and when Liddi does reach the majors, he'll be the first native of his country to do so since Bertoia.

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