Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Alessandro Maestri

Former Orix Buffaloes pitcher Alessandro "Alex" Maestri announced his retirement today.  Maestri has had a fascinating career, having played professionally in six different countries on four separate continents.  He was born in Italy and started his career with San Marino of the Italian Baseball League in 2005.  He was a member of the Italian team for the first World Baseball Classic in 2006 and then signed a contract with the Chicago Cubs.  He spent five years in the Cubs organization and made it to Double-A before being released in early 2011.  He spent that summer with the Lincoln Saltdogs of the independent American Association and that fall he continued playing baseball with the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League.  

He played well enough with Brisbane to make the "World" team for the All Star game that December.  His Brisbane teammates included five players from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks - Kenta Imamiya, Taisei Makihara, Keiji Nakahara, Ayatsugu Yamashita and Yohei Yanagawa.  I'd be curious to find out if having these players as teammates had any bearing on his eventually playing in Japan as he signed on with the Kagawa Olive Guyners of the independent Shikoku Island League for 2012.

He pitched out of the bullpen in 30 games for Kagawa during the first half of the 2012 season, going 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA and 12 saves and attracted the attention of the Buffaloes, who signed him in early July.  He made his debut with the ichi-gun Buffaloes on August 12th, becoming the first NPB player ever who was born and raised in Italy.  He made eight starts for Orix that year, going 4-3 with an ERA of 2.17.  

He was both a starter and reliever in 2013, going 7-5 with a 5.40 ERA in 24 games (including 11 starts).  He spent all of 2014 as a middle reliever and went 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA in 36 games.  In his final year with the Buffaloes he went 0-2 with a 3.19 ERA in 28 games (including one start).  

Orix released him at the end of the 2015 season and he signed on with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball Organization.  He became the first ever Italian born player in the KBO when he made his debut with the team on April 5th.  Hanwha made a starter out of him and it did not go particularly well as he went 2-2 with a 9.42 ERA in 9 games (8 starts).  The Eagles released him in mid-June and he spent the remainder of the season back in Japan with the Gunma Diamond Pegasus of the independent Baseball Challenge League.

He played for the Veracruz Red Eagles of the Mexican League in 2017 and has spent the past three seasons back in Italy playing for San Marino again.  He also spent two winters (2018-19 and 2019-20) back in Australia as a member of the Sydney Blue Sox.

He's played for Italy in all four World Baseball Classics as well as the 2015 Premier 12.  He also played as part of the European Team in a couple of preseason friendlies against Samurai Japan in 2015 and on Team Italy in the European/African Olympic qualifier in September of 2019.

He had an eclectic assortment of baseball cards in Japan.  He signed too late in 2012 to be included in any BBM or Calbee sets so his only card that year was from the 2012 Bandai Owners League 04 set (#041).  By my count he had a total of ten NPB cards - three from Bandai (Owners League 04 sets in 2013, 2014 and 2015), two from Front Runner (2013 Buffaloes Season Summary, 2014 Buffaloes Rookies & Young Stars) and five from BBM (2013-15 Buffaloes, 2014 1st Version, 2016 The Ballpark Stories).  He never had a Calbee card.  

His only Korean card is from Dan Skrezyna's 2016 Vittum "Foreign Attack" set.  I'm not entirely sure about his Australian cards but I know he had cards in the 2011-12 Brisbane Bandits team sets, the 2018-19 Choice ABL set and the 2019-20 Sydney Blue Sox set.

Here are the cards I have for him, including two Australian cards and the KBO card.  He's in a group photo on the one Brisbane card I have for him - he's second from the left in the photo.  (From left to right in the photo is Justin Erasmus, Maestri, Yohei Yanagawa, Kenta Imamiya, Brisbane GM Paul Gonzalez, Ayatsugo Yamashita and Josh Roberts).  Also note that the other Australian card I have of him shows him in an Orix uniform rather than a Sydney one.

2011-12 Brisbane Bandits Team Set Series Two #054

2013 Bandai Owners League 04 #140

2014 Front Runner Buffaloes Season Summary #03

2014 BBM 1st Version #116

2014 Front Runner Buffaloes Rookies & Young Stars #13

2015 BBM Buffaloes #Bs33

2016 BBM The Ballpark Stories #080

2016 Vittum Foreign Attack #5

2018-19 Choice ABL #60

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