Mazzieri/Piazza/Grilli Interview March 8

Q. Marco, can you just give me the vibe of the team today after yesterday's big win?

MARCO MAZZIERI: Well, we had a great vibe coming into this since day one. You really don't think that win yesterday is going to change that. I think that we know we just made one step, but we have a goal and we're just wanting to keep moving on.

Q. Do you have any clue about tomorrow's pitcher? Looking at that?

MARCO MAZZIERI: I don't think it's a good idea to think about tomorrow. We're thinking about today, and that's all we're focused on. And when the game is finished tonight, we'll go from there.

Q. Big stage of today's game, obviously yesterday's big win, looking at today, just kind of go look at today's opponent, Canada, anybody -- give me the vibe of that whole -- of Team Canada and what you're looking at.

MARCO MAZZIERI: Well, obviously we respect Team Canada a lot, just as much as we respect Mexico. We know this is a big stage, we know that we are the underdogs, but I think that we should deserve a little bit more credit than what people have been giving us. And I think this team has showed that we have got people, as Jason likes to say (laughter).

Q. Mike, you're no stranger to the World Baseball Classic, a little different for you this year. Can you talk about that transition from player to now coaching staff?

MIKE PIAZZA: Well, I'm a huge fan of this tournament. I love international baseball. It's been a passion of mine, obviously in the later years of my career and since I've been retired.

I truly believe in the marketability of baseball in Europe, in Italy specifically. And that's -- I'm here completely focused on this ballclub to get the most out of our players here and hopefully help them along in their individual careers. Obviously the American, the Big League guys, but also the Italian guys as well. But also we're just trying to bring attention as well to baseball in Italy.

And we think that -- at least in my personal opinion that we can produce players and there's a future there. Hopefully with some of our success, we can sort of use this tournament to just bring more attention to Italian baseball and just help it grow into the future.

So, again, that's -- it's a personal passion of mine. It's something I really enjoy since I retired. I've gotten very close with Marco and Holmberg and the other guys from the Federation.

So I just think it's something for me that's very personal and a small part of me giving back to this game that's given me so much.

Q. Marco, four years ago you guys had a terrific upset over Canada at this tournament. That loss weighs pretty heavily on the Canadians. Do you ever think about it?

MARCO MAZZIERI: No, that was a good game. It was a very exciting game, actually. We went to the Venezuela game as motivated as we were in that one. We came up short in that one, but that was four years ago. Today's a different story. They have a very good ballclub, but we're going to play a nine one innings game, as I told my guys. That's what we're focusing on.

Q. For Jason, if you guys win today, this is a very big breakthrough for Italian baseball. Any nerves in the locker room right now with yourself or your teammates?

JASON GRILLI: No, we're excited. I think the most impressionable thing for me as I saw the sea of blue jumping yesterday and everyone in the back, this has been a process, as baseball is, your player development, your growth. Yes, we have a lot of Italian American players, guys that are playing over here that are Italian, but to see these guys, it's kind of the same -- I've been saying it, to see these guys who are from the homeland here, to see them get a Big League experience and see how they adapted to it, to me, excites me.

It's kind of like when you see a rookie come up and rally around that guy that's getting his Major League debut. This is their Big League debut for some of these guys. And everybody's embraced it entirely.

I think when you call it nerves, call it whatever, nerves can be either good or bad. And everyone in that clubhouse, the nerves are using it for positive. And that's why results like yesterday happened. We believe a lot of people are sleeping on us, not giving us any credit, say what they want, but I like it. I like being the underdog. I always have.

I think that we're getting a lot of attention because a lot of people are seeing that we are progressing through, even in 2006, the inaugural one, we were in tough bracket with Dominican and Venezuela. And if you want to be the best, you got to play the best.

It's kind of like I remember when we got to the World Series and the playoffs in 2006, we had to go through the Yankees, and the Yankees on paper were way better than us, but you just got to play this game. You got to play it out. Any given day, any team can come out and beat another team.

Q. Marco, you talked yesterday about how y'all have scouted and how much y'all have prepared for this tournament. How easy or how difficult is it to kind of scout when you're pulling together scouting reports from guys who played really kind of all over the place? Can you go into a little bit of the scouting process to get ready for this tournament?

MARCO MAZZIERI: Let's put it this way: We got some connections. We're Italians.

(Laughter.)

MIKE PIAZZA: We got a guy for everybody.

(Laughter.)

MIKE PIAZZA: We always have a guy.

I think a lot of it is just by watching as well during the game and just communicating. And just to finish what Marco was saying, I mean, a team -- obviously in this tournament, teams have to come together quickly. So it's -- as you've seen before, it's just not always the most talented team on paper. You also have to be aware in the dugout and listen and make adjustments during the game. That's a huge part of it as well.

Scouting is important, but you still have to execute. They have to go together.

MARCO MAZZIERI: I was just wanting to add something on that. We've got to give a lot of credit to our pitching coach. He's done a tremendous job on scouting. He's been working hard just to get our players in the best possible conditions to perform at their best, to give them an edge on pitching and on their offense. And, again, I can't thank him enough for what he's done for us. Holmberg, I love him to death and he's been with me since I took over this team in 2007, and together we have gone a long way.

Q. Jason, you seem very excited, but the journey with the Italian jersey for you is very, very long. Since 1996. Could you explain what you are thinking about?

JASON GRILLI: Yeah, it has been. Like I said, I think that it's a longwinded answer that would be -- we would be here all day. I'm just really grateful.

And I've worn this statement out, is that the name on the back of your jersey, you don't really typically play for that, but the one on the back of the jersey allows you to play for the one on the front. And I'm very proud, as every guy in that locker room, whether there's an A, E, I, O, U, or sometimes even a Y in there, we're all proud that we have Italian blood running through our veins. Doesn't matter where we come from.

And for me I'm happy to participate in this event for the third time. And I'm hoping to do it -- if my body holds up, I hope to do it for the next -- in the next four years. And after that, I'm talking to these guys about real estate in Italy, so I hope that I can be that bridge where my ancestors came over here for a better life and a better living, and I'm hoping that I can circle back to show my kids that this is our lineage, this is what we are proud off.

I hope to help baseball as well. Baseball runs through my veins as well. It's been in my life through my father who played in the Big Leagues. I hope to join these guys in the coaching staff and to help baseball and to bring more Italians into the Big Leagues. The Latin America countries do it very well. The Japanese and Asian players do it very well. There's no reason why there can't be more Joe DiMaggios, Mike Piazzas in the United States and to be one of 750 of the best players in the world.

Q. Mike, tomorrow you will meet Joe Torre and Tommy Lasorda. How do you feel with this journey?

MIKE PIAZZA: Well, again, I think Joe -- I had words with Joe the other night, and obviously Joe, being of Italian descent, maybe if they don't win he'll secretly pull for us.

But, no, I think that just shows the tradition of Italian American baseball, how passionate all the way from DiMaggio, Rocky Colavito, all the way up till Tommy Lasorda, Joe Torre and myself and Craig Biggio, other guys as well. So it's something that -- Jason Grilli. It's something we -- I can't explain it. I think because the game is so special to identifying as being American that maybe we wanted to come over and show how we can be American but also hold on to our Italian identity, so I think there's something to be said for that. And the game's fun. It's a lot of fun.

So, again, I think if we can, as I said, continue to draw attention to, as Jason eloquently stated, to give baseball back to Italy, we feel there's a lot of upward growth over there. If it's done right, we think we can continue to produce good players and hopefully future Major Leaguers.

Q. Marco, how important was y'all's success in the European Cup, not just for the success that you had, but as far as bringing this team together? Kind of a lot of the pieces that are here kind of got together for the European Cup last fall.

MARCO MAZZIERI: Well, I don't think it's only the success on the European championship last September, this has been a program that it's been started in 2007 and we tried to develop the best possible players to possibly mesh with the Big League guys on this tournament.

And actually my coaching staff and I picked each one of these guys because of their good relationships with the country, with me, the coaching staff, and most of all because they're not only Major League players, but because they're very good people.

That's what we're looking for. We got the people we wanted, and we're very proud of it. And it's all about them. We like to see those smiling faces. Their joy is our joy. And we tried to put the team together with that goal. Everybody's pulling one direction.

This is a very strong group, very highly motivated group, and if you could come in our clubhouse, as Jason was saying, there's a lot of positive energy in there.