Red Sox prospect has eye on BCS title game

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We don’t do a whole lot on college football here at HBT — for obvious reasons — but this story from MLB.com’s Peter Gammons was too good to pass up.

Gammons writes a nice profile on Red Sox prospect Brandon Jacobs, who committed to play football at Auburn before his senior year of high school in Liburn, Ga., before deciding – like many of us in this space – that baseball was his true love. Jacobs, who at 6-1, 225, was called a “tailback in a fullback’s body,” could have been playing behind Cam Newton in Monday night’s championship game against Oregon. Instead, he’ll be watching the game in television.

“I have no regrets,” Jacobs said. “I don’t miss [football]. I love baseball, I had a great experience playing in Lowell [New York-Penn League] this past summer, where the ballpark was packed every night.

“A lot went into my decision to sign with Boston. I thought a lot about the longevity of the career, the injury risk. I really thought baseball was what I was going to play in the long run, and why wait four years to get started. I know I have a long way to go, but I’m very pleased with the decision I made.”

Smart kid, though it probably didn’t hurt that he signed a deal in the $800,000 range, well above slot for a 10th round draft pick.

Another interesting part of Gammons’ story is that the Red Sox employ a consistent strategy of drafting multi-sport stars – players other teams are scared to waste picks on – then luring them to baseball with above-slot signing bonuses. They did it with Jacobs, as well as Casey Kelly, Ryan Kalish and Will Middlebrooks, all of whom had football scholarships in hand when they signed with Boston.

As far as Jacobs and his baseball skills go, Gammons quotes one scout as comparing him to a young Kevin Mitchell, raw but athletic. In 72 games in the low minors, he has a .242/.310/.404 line with six home runs and 31 RBIs. He has a long way  to go, but does not regret his decision to play baseball.

“I’ll be watching [Monday],” said Jacobs, “but, to be honest, I’m more excited about Spring Training. I’m a baseball player. I’d love to be there in Arizona, but I’d rather be playing in Boston someday.”

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Mike Piazza presided over the destruction of a 100-year-old soccer team

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Mike Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame in January of 2016 and inducted in July of 2016. In between those dates he purchased an Italian soccer team, A.C. Reggiana 1919, a member of Italy’s third division. In June of that year he was greeted as a savior in Reggio Emilia, the small Italian town in which the team played. He was the big American sports star who was going to restore the venerable club to its past and rightful place of glory.

There were suggestions by last March that things weren’t going well, but know we know that in less than two years it all fell apart. Piazza and his wife Alicia presided over a hot mess of a business, losing millions of dollars and, this past June, they abruptly liquidated the club. It is now defunct — one year short of its centennial — and a semipro team is playing in its place, trying to acquire the naming rights from Piazza as it wends its way though bankruptcy.

Today at The Athletic, Robert Andrew Powell has a fascinating — no, make that outrageously entertaining — story of how that all went down from the perspective of the Piazzas. Mostly Alicia Piazza who ran the team in its second year when Mike realized he was in over his head. She is . . . something. Her quotes alone are worth the price of admission. For example:

Alicia, who refers to Mike’s ownership dream as “his midlife crisis,” offered up a counter argument.

“Who the f**k ever heard of Reggio Emilia?” she asked. “It’s not Venice. It’s not Rome. My girlfriend said, and you can quote this—and this really depressed me. She said, ‘Honey, you bought into Pittsburgh.’ Like, it wasn’t the New York Yankees. It wasn’t the Mets. It wasn’t the Dodgers. You bought Pittsburgh!”

In their Miami living room, Mike tried to interject but she stopped him.

“And imagine what that feels like, after spending 10 million euros. You bought Pittsburgh!”

At this point it may be worth remembering that Piazza is from Pennsylvania. Eastern Pennsylvania to be sure, but still.

Shockingly, it didn’t end all that well for the Piazzas in Reggio Emilia:

One week later, the Piazzas returned to Reggio Emilia, and were spotted at the team offices. More than a hundred ultras marched into the office parking lot, chanting and demanding answers. Carabinieri—national police aligned with the military—showed up for the Piazzas’ safety. The police advised the Americans to avoid the front door of the complex and exit through the back. Mike assured them it wouldn’t be necessary—he had always enjoyed a good relationship with the fans.

The carabinieri informed him that the relationship had changed. The Piazzas slipped out the back door, under police escort.

The must-read of the week. Maybe the month. Hell, maybe the year. The only thing I can imagine topping it is if someone can tell this story from the perspective of the people in Reggio Emilia. I’m guessing their take is a bit different than the Piazzas.