Flashback Friday: Claudio Liverziani

Claudio Liverziani at home plate of Time Warner Cable Field for a Post-Crescent story in 1997. (Appleton Post Crescent)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | December 9, 2011 7:11 AM ET

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Alex Liddi was not the first Italian born Wisconsin Timber Rattlers player.  Claudio Liverziani has that honor.  Liverziani first came to Appleton in 1997.  Tim Spencer of the Appleton Post-Crescent has the story from the April 29th edition of the paper.

Native of Italy wants to more than a novelty

After all he's accomplished in the last nine months, Claudio Liverziani should be content to sit back and drink it all in.

The rest of us surely would.

Last July, the 22-year-old Wisconsin Timber Rattlers outfielder led his native Italian Olympic baseball team to an unprecedented defeat of Korea and best-ever fifth-place finish at the Atlanta Summer Games.

And if that wasn't enough, in August, Liverziani was signed to a professional contract by the Seattle Mariners organization, joining fellow countryman David Rigoli as the only two Italian players currently playing professional baseball in the United States.

But the importance of what he's done just doesn't seem to dawn on Liverziani.  Instead, it left him hungry for more.

"I've always thought I was good enough to play professional baseball over here," said Liverziani.  "I never wanted to be just another good player from Italy.

"It's not like I've made it here either, but when things start going bad and it looks like I won't reach the majors, I won't head back to Italy happy with what I've done.  I want to reach the top.  I'm not going to look back and think what a great experience this was unless I make it all the way.  It's a job for me.  It's work."

It's also a trade Liverziani began learning at an early age.  His father, who played in the Italian leagues in the 1950's and 60's, provided Liverziani his first glimpse at baseball.  Later, it was the oddity of the game that beckoned him to baseball.

"I remember wanting to play this strange sport," he said.  "I grew up playing both baseball and basketball and when I was 16 I had to make a choice between the two.  Maybe I made the right choice."

Liverziani quickly moved through the youth ranks of Italian baseball eventually finding a spot on the junior national team.

From there he joined Novaro of the Italian Baseball League, providing Liverziani with his first glimpse of the game on a professional level.

"From what I've seen, I'd say the Italian league is like advanced single A over here," Liverziani said.  "We used to face ex-major league pitchers and players sometimes so the competition is pretty good.  We're obviously improving as a country.  I think the Olympics showed that."

While playing for the national team, Liverziani first caught the eye of Mariners scout Mauro Mazzotti.  But the Seattle organization failed in its first attempt to sign Liverziani.

"I had a chance to sign before the Olympics but didn't go through with it because I thought I wasn't ready to play professionally here," said Liverziani, who signed a one-year deal.  "Now, I think I'm ready."

So do the Mariners.

"We knew he was one of the best players on the Italian team," said Greg Hunter, Seattle's assistant director of player development.  "He's definitely a legitimate prospect.

"But also at the same time, from a player development standpoint, just because of where he's from doesn't mean he'll get any preferential treatment.  This is not an experiment."

On the field, Liverziani who bats left-handed and throws right is off to a solid start with the Rattlers.

He's batting close to .300 and has yet to commit an error.

"I think he's got a real good idea of how to hit," said Rattlers manager Gary Varsho.  "You're not going to see him hit a lot of home runs to right field but he's got a real nice stroke.  He handles himself well at the plate and I haven't seen him overmatched up there yet.  He's adapted well."

How many times have you seen a player get a feature story in the paper and have a horrible line in the boxscore on the same day?  That did not happen with Liverziani.  He went 2-for-3 with five RBI, including a grand slam in an 11-2 victory over Burlington on April 28

Liverziani played just two seasons in the United States.  He spent both the 1997 and 1998 seasons with the Timber Rattlers.  His Baseball Reference page notes that he played 214 games with eight homers and 64 RBI for the Rattlers.

Mauro Mazzotti was a manager for Telemarket Rimini of the Italian Baseball League.  He is now the manager of the Spanish National Baseball team.

Liverziani returned to Italy after the 1998 season and his Bullpen page notes that he played for Rimini from 1999-2001 and Fortitudo Bologna from 2002 through 2009.  He was the MVP of the Italian League in 2001 and was the playoff MVP in 2009.

Liverziani has had his name pop up in stories over the years.  He played for Italy in the 2006 World Baseball Classic gets a couple of mentions in this New York Times story.

ORLANDO, Florida - When Claudio Liverziani of Team Italia grounded to short against the Dominican Republic last week in the first World Baseball Classic, the man reaching to make the out at first base was Albert Pujols, the National League's most valuable player whose contract this year will bring him $14 million.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime flash of proximity, good-natured obscurity superimposed for a fraction of a second on a kind of sports grandeur:Liverziani, an advertising space salesman due back at work Monday morning, who picks up about €10,000, or $11,900, a year playing weekends for Fortuna Bologna in the Italian League, and Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals, one of baseball's hot, young, fungible faces.

For his effort, Liverziani entered the notional Golden Book of baseball. One time at bat (he walked), no hits, for an official average of .000. Not great, although for all World Baseball Classic eternity no worse this time than a hitless Andruw Jones of the Netherlands and his $75 million six-year contract with the Atlanta Braves.

"I'm enormously happy I played," Liverziani said before rushing home. "It's one of the best things I've ever done in my life. It was being in the big leagues for a week."

More on Liverziani's WBC experience may be found at the above link.

He also became the seventh player in Italian League history to reach 1,000 hits.

However, he has not played since 2009 because of this:

Baseball.it reports on Wednesday that the National Anti-Doping Tribunal of the Italian Olympic Committee CONI with Chairman Francesco Plotino imposes a suspension of two years against Claudio Liverziani of the Italian Baseball League club Fortitudo Bologna. He will be banned until October 1st, 2011.

Liverziani was tested positive on an amphetamine after a semi-final round game against Cariparma on July 25. In November the anti-doping prosecutor recommended the two-year suspension according to article 10.2 of the WADA code. Liverziani is 34 years old and batted .298 (OBP .482/SLG .468) with four homeruns and 33 RBI in 42 games during the regular season.


This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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