Chris Denorfia will be reunited with a couple of former Oakland teammates when he joins Team Italy on Sunday in Florida for preparation for the World Baseball Classic (WBC).
“I’m really excited,” Denorfia said on Monday. “It’s not something I expected during the offseason.”
Denorfia joins former A’s pitcher Lenny DiNardo and a handful of other current major leaguers on the roster. His hitting coach is Mike Piazza, who played with the A’s two years ago. The two were on the disabled list most of the season.
“Piazza has a great swing that is inductive to using the whole field,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “If he could teach that swing he’ll be very successful. He had a great approach.”
Italy manager Marco Mazzieri’s bench coach will be Mike Hargrove, who reached the World Series with the Cleveland Indians. He also managed the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners. Italy’s third-base coach is former Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs manager Tom Trebelhorn.
Italy will be facing the US, Canada and Venezuela in the first round of the WBC between March 7 and March 11 in Toronto.
“From what I hear Italy plays in a respected league in Europe,” Denorfia said. “I’ll be interested to see what kind of talent they have.”
Denorfia, whose paternal grandmother is Italian, has spent parts of the past four seasons in the majors with the Cincinnati Reds and the A’s. The 28-year-old outfielder spent most of last year at Triple-A Sacramento, where he hit .302.
He visited family in Italy as a teenager and returned there for a backpack trip after graduating from Wheaton College in 2002.
The Italians failed to get out of the first round of the 2006 WBC, with just a victory against Australia. But the Europeans were the only team to beat the US during the American’s run to the gold medal at the 2007 World Cup.
Angels catcher Mike Napoli and former A’s catcher Sal Fasano, infielders Frank Catalanotto, also a former Athletic, Robert Fick and Nick Punto highlight the roster.
Team Italy’s pitching staff will be led by DiNardo, Jason Grilli and Mark DiFelice.
“I think it’s a great thing,” Denorfia said. “It’s important with baseball out of the Olympics that something like this draws attention to the sport.”
Denorfia may get a chance to hit against current teammate Brad Ziegler.
“If he puts it there I’ll try to hit it,” he said.