By Will Desautelle
When Europe-Africa Manager Francesco Lamanuzzi played for Emilia Romagna Little League years ago, his team’s quest to get to Williamsport fell short twice. Now as the manager for the youngest team in the Little League Baseball® World Series, he is leading the fourth team from Emilia Romagna to play in Williamsport.
When Mr. Lamanuzzi’s team emerged from the regional tournament in Kutno, Poland, he said his players gave him a gift by winning the region tournament. It was a gift that he could never experience as a player, but now he is living out his lifelong dream of reaching the Little League Baseball® World Series.
“I love this game and working with these young players,” Mr. Lamanuzzi said. “They are a very young group, but they are very good at following the coach’s instructions and suggestions.”
Europe-Africa Manager Francesco Lamanuzzi
The Emilia Romagna team includes four players that are under 12 years old, including two that are only 10 years old, both of which are the youngest two among the 2019 Little League World Series teams.
Despite its youth, the team has shown poise and maturity beyond their years that has allowed them to defy the odds. They have continued what has been a dominant lineage of Emilia Romagna Little League teams, representing the Europe-Africa Region in Williamsport three out of the past four years.
At the regional tournament in Kutno, Emilia Romagna outscored its opponents 27-7 in four games played, and six of those runs were allowed in its second game against Spain. It was a game they trailed 6-0 but then scored eight consecutive runs to advance to the semifinals.
“Our team has great concentration and we are addicted to the game. They have reacted to stress very well in important games,” Mr. Lamanuzzi said. “We are able to rotate our pitchers in the best way in our tournaments in Italy and in Kutno, Poland, and we also have some good hitters.”
This season’s tournament is also just the fifth time that the country of Italy is appearing at the Little League World Series, and only one of those teams was not from Emilia Romagna.
Mr. Lamanuzzi said that Williamsport will be a bigger stage than anything his young team has ever experienced, but he expects them to handle the pressure well, like they have all season. He is thrilled about the opportunity to play against the top competition in the world.
“When we looked around at the parade, we couldn’t believe it. For my players, this moment is big. One of my players said to me that there are more people here than there have ever been for our games back home. It is an experience they don’t believe,” said Mr. Lamanuzzi. “We will not worry about the scoreboard here. We tell the guys just play baseball and don’t worry about the score.”