MESA, Ariz. – John Andreoli casually checked his phone on a sleepy Sunday in January and saw the out-of-nowhere email.
“I just kind of did a double take,” said the Cubs’ outfield prospect, “and responded. It ended up being an unbelievable opportunity. It was crazy but it was great.”
The email was an invitation to join Team Italy for the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Andreoli, a New England native and resident, had to confirm his lineage – sending copies of marriage certificates, birth certificates and death certificates of grandparents and great-grandparents to MLB and WBC officials.
“It took a couple weeks, but it worked out,” said Andreoli, who starts practice with his national team on March 5.
The tournament opens March 6 with Team Italy opening Pool D play against host Mexico – a team it upset during a surprising march to the second round in the last tournament four years ago, when Anthony Rizzo played for Italy.
Andreoli, 26, has spent the past two seasons at Class AAA Iowa, hitting .256 (.374 on-base percentage) with 12 homers last year, when he led the league in stolen bases (43) and games (140).
His WBC pool includes some of the toughest competition he will have faced in his career, including Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada of Mexico, Felix Hernandez and Cubs teammate Hector Rondon of Venezuela, and Edwin Diaz and Hector Santiago of Puerto Rico.
“It’s four really good countries that are represented by a lot of MLB players and All-Stars,” Andreoli said of the pool. “So it’s going to be a good challenge to play against those guys. I think it’s definitely going to translate into my season and definitely be a great experience.”
Besides Andreoli and Rondon, the Cubs have three other players from big-league camp scheduled to play in the WBC: infielder Javy Baez (Puerto Rico), and pitchers Jim Henderson (Canada) and Jhondaniel Medina (Venezuela).