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Mike Piazza presented as manager of Italy’s baseball team

ROME (AP) — Coaching Italy's national baseball team fits in perfectly with Mike Piazza’s current lifestyle. The Hall of Fame catcher and his family have been living in Italy for several years since Piazza’s brief stint as owner of a local soccer club.

Speaking at his introduction at the Italian Olympic Committee on Friday, Piazza says “my heart is in Italy now. ... Italy is a part of me.” The 51-year-old Piazza, who was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, is of Italian ancestry. While his contract expires at the end of next year, Piazza is expected to manage Italy at least through the 2021 World Baseball Classic.

Piazza played for Italy at the 2006 Classic and was Italy's hitting coach at the 2009 and 2013 WBC tournaments. In 2016, he bought control of third-division soccer club Reggiana, which dropped out of Serie C after the 2017-18 season.

Piazza replaces Gilberto Gerali, who resigned when Italy failed to qualify for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. Piazza says “we need to re-establish our place as one of the elite programs in Europe. So we have a lot of work to do.”

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