2011 IBL Champion - San Marino
2009 IBL Champion - Bologna
Playing in ItalyRules change from year to year, but there are two ways to play in Italy, as a foreigner or as an EU citizen (until 2009 only Italian citizens counted).
For any questions about playing in Italy as an Italian or as a foreigner, please email firstname.lastname@example.org after reading the information below carefully. We love to help anybody who might have a chance find their way to Italy, but we hate having to repeat the same answers over and over. Make sure to include your full name and your position, age, and playing experience.
Playing as a ForeignerPlaying in Italy as a foreigner is very competitive, and almost always requires professional experience. As of 2009 the 8 IBL teams were each allowed four foreigners, with most teams opting for two pitchers and two hitters. These players generally have extensive professional experience most often in double-A, but many have triple-A and Major League experience.
The lifestyle is great, and while the salaries don't match up with Taiwan or Korea, foreign players are generally paid better than US independent leagues with most players making $2,000-$3,000 per month after taxes with all living expenses taken care of. A few ex-Major League players have gone above this level to be paid as much as $5,000-$7,000 per month, but this is rare, and as the world economic slowdown hit Italian sports hard is unlikely in the near future.
Teams usually make foreigner choices exclusively on playing experience and referrals or connections, and there are usually not any kind of tryout available.
In 2009 each of the second division A2 teams was allowed a single Visa for a pitcher, which significantly changed the structure of that league. These teams tend to have much lower budgets so most have turned to inexpensive players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and not many Americans played in A2 as foreign pitchers. Many teams picked players who had previously played in A1 as foreigners, but there were also many players making their debuts.
If you are not eligible for EU citizenship and are interested in playing in Italy, you will almost definitely need professional experience. Undrafted college players hoping for a shot have a much better chance at climbing the ladder of independent baseball in the USA and finding their way to Italy down the road after several professional seasons.
Playing as an EU CitizenPreviously only Italian citizens were able to play without counting as one of the limited foreigners, but in 2009 that rule was changed to treat all European Union citizens the same. So in addition to the most common American with Italian background, there have been a number of Spanish-Venezuelan, Greek-American, and other combination players. No matter the type, the player must have full citizenship of an EU country, the laws of which vary from country to country.
There are restrictions on the EU Players which has the biggest impact in the IBL where the result is teams usually having at most two hitters and two pitchers, but in some cases teams will have a third hitter or pitcher who will get limited playing time. Players who have played six seasons do not count against this limit, which is why some teams appear to have many more non-Italian players. In A2 or B these limits have less of an impact and teams generally sign any players they are interested in and can afford.
In the IBL EU players typically have professional experience, but many good undrafted college players find success. College players typically fall in the $800-$1,200 per month range, and professional players in the $1,000 to $3,000 range depending on playing experience and the team.
In A2 or B, the level of play is lower, and college players and even some high school players can have an amazing experience. Here there is more range in pay depending on the team, from close to free to about $1,500 per month, and things depend on the particular player and th particular team much more than any general guidelines.
Getting Italian CitizenshipItalian citizenship as the most common example is obtained by demonstrating an uninterrupted link between the player and an Italian ancestor. Accepting the citizenship of another country is something to be considered seriously, and we do not provide any legal advice, but in the last dozen years hundreds of Americans have done so without any problems to play baseball in Italy.
The first of the two most important things to know are that if the Italian-born ancestor (great-grandfather for example) naturalized as a US citizen before his American-born child was born (grandfather for example) that blocks the line and another line must be established to be eligible.
The second is that women could only pass their citizenship on to children born 1948 and after. So the Italian-born ancestor can almost never be a great-grandmother, and if your mother/father was born before 1948 (increasingly rare for young players) you cannot go through your grandmother either. In almost all cases it is easiest to use the paternal line, but when a naturalization gets in the way or only the mother's side of the family is Italian, players can and do use their maternal lines within these rules.
Once the line to be used has been determined, the player needs to gather birth, marriage, naturalization, and death certificates for all people in the line. All of the US documents except for naturalization (or a letter from the INS indicating no record of naturalization) need to have a special Apostille seal from the state Secretary of State, which usually costs extra and is either requested at the same time as the document, or in some states the document must be sent in after being issues. Finding the documents from Italy can be a little trickier and it is important to know the exact name, date, and place.
Once all documentation is complete the request to recognize citizenship is presented to the Italian Consulate that covers the area where the player lives. From this point on it can take between a month to a year to get the paperwork processed and be issues an Italian passport or sometimes more quickly a certificate of citizenship.
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