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"#StayHealthy", says Massimo Fochi, the first pitcher to win for Italy in the Olympics

"#StayHealthy", says Massimo Fochi, the first pitcher to win for Italy in the Olympics
With Tokyo 2020 postponed and many across the world confined to their homes due to the coronavirus, three-time Olympian Massimo Fochi says "athletes can show everybody how to #StayHealthy during this difficult time".

Massimo Fochi was the first-ever Italian pitcher to earn a win in the Olympic Games. On 31 July 1984, he took the mound at Los Angeles Dodger Stadium with the Azzurri trailing against the Dominican Republic. The 19-year old Fochi kept Italy in the game and a five-run ninth gave his National Team a come-from-behind 10-7 win.

"I was surprised by the fact manager Jim Mansilla turned to me," recalled Fochi during a telephone conversation. "I was the new boy on the roster and we had more experienced pitchers available. I took the mound with the enthusiasm of the teenager I was. Those memories will be with me for the rest of my life".

Baseball was a demonstration sport in Los Angeles.

"It was unforgettable," remembers Fochi. "I still have in my eyes the opening at the Memorial Coliseum. There were so many expectations about the baseball tournament."

Possibly, Italy was expecting too much: "We travelled to Los Angeles believing we were strong enough to make the medal round. Manager Jim Mansilla selected the best of the best of the Italian League, but we kind of overrated ourselves. USA was simply out of reach and nobody expected Chinese Taipei to be that good."

Fochi, a two-way player who could hit for power, appeared in two more editions of the Olympics.

"I was on the roster in 1992, but I had to deal with an injury. I enjoyed much more the 1996 Games in Atlanta. I was a veteran by then and we were able to compete against everybody. We beat Korea, thanks to a great outing by Roberto Cabalisti. Gigi Carrozza, our starting catcher, earned best hitter honours. We also lost against the Netherlands and a young pitcher named Rob Cordemans."

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020 have been postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"This must motivate all of the athletes to keep working," Fochi says. "The Olympics can well be the reason to maintain a career at the highest level. Once the Games open, we will know that the world turned the corner. So, #StayStrong."

You are now in top management for Parma of the Italian Baseball League. How are you dealing with the lock-down?

"Players are used to sacrifice. When we finally make it to the field again, we will appreciate even more the meaning of team spirit. Athletes are used to finding their motivation inside, they can offer an example to everybody and show how to #StayHealthy during this difficult time."