Italy set to test itself against Australia
Tuesday, 7 March 2006 2:00:00 AM
Justice B. Hill is a senior writer for MLB.com.
"We're in a tough pool," Galante said. "First of all, obviously, the Dominican [Republic] and Venezuela have to be the favorites in the pool. I'm not sure that Australia is not that strong either; I think they're pretty good. So we're definitely in a strong pool."
Galante and his players will find out on Tuesday just how strong the pool is. They open against Australia, a team that's not considered a powerhouse in the Italy's pool.
For Team Italy to beat Australia won't rank as a monumental upset, certainly nothing akin to the U.S. hockey team's win over the Russians in the 1980 Winter Games. But for Italians to escape Pool D play might border on a surprise of that magnitude.
"We're not here to lose," said right-hander Jason Grilli, Tuesday's starter. "We're not here to just be somebody's practice game. We're to come out and compete and win and give it all we got, you know."
Galante added, "I feel this way: If we can compete with the teams, then we can win. If we're competitive, then we can possibly beat them.
"If we're not competitive, we're not gonna win. But it's a tough road ahead, no question. I mean, you have to be blind not to see the Dominican players and all the big-league stars they have."
He can put thoughts about the Dominicans in mothballs for a while. Right now, he has to deal with Australia, and how his inexperienced players handle the international spotlight that shines on The Classic.
To be sure, Galante is expecting his team to compete, regardless of whom it plays in the tournament. No team, he said, wants to come here and leave embarrassed, not with country pride on the line.
Pride can lead to great things -- or to so much pressure that disaster follows. Galante is expecting the former, not the latter.
He's counting on that pride to carry his team far.
"We're representing Italy now as one group," he said. "I explained to the players that we're representing Italy, whether we're naturally born in Italy or whether we're Italian-American. We're happy to have both the Italian-Americans and the [native] Italians."