WBC Benefits John Andreoli

MESA, Ariz.John Andreoli casually checked his phone on a sleepy Sunday in January and saw the out-of-nowhere email.

“I just kind of did a double take and responded,” said the 26-year-old outfielder. “It ended up being an unbelievable opportunity. It was crazy, but it was great.”

The email was an invitation to join Team Italy for the World Baseball Classic. Andreoli, a New England native and resident, had to confirm his lineage—sending copies of marriage certificates, birth certificates and death certificates of grandparents and great-grandparents to Major League Baseball and WBC officials.

“It took a couple weeks, but it worked out,” said Andreoli, who—like Anthony Rizzo four years ago—figures to be one of the better players on the roster.

The 17th-round pick in 2011 from Connecticut believes the WBC can help him.

Andreoli has spent the past two seasons at Triple-A Iowa. He hit .256/.374/.396 with 12 homers in 140 games last year, when he led the Pacific Coast League with 43 stolen bases.

His WBC pool includes some of the toughest competition he will have faced in his career, including Yovani Gallardo and Marco Estrada of Mexico, Felix Hernandez and Cubs teammate Hector Rondon of Venezuela and Edwin Diaz and Hector Santiago of Puerto Rico.

For a system-depth player on the doorstep of a debut, it could be the kind of experience that provides an important boost.

“It’s four really good countries that are represented by a lot of MLB players and all-stars,” Andreoli said. “So it’s going to be a good challenge to play against those guys. I think it’s definitely going to translate into my season and definitely be a great experience.”


Third baseman Jeimer Candelario impressed early in his second big league camp. He earned praise from manager Joe Maddon for the way he handled third base as well as his approach at the plate from both sides.

Don’t be shocked by the new sleek look at Iowa when right-hander Pierce Johnson and catcher Taylor Davis team up. “We used to have the best battery of hair,” Johnson said moments after his and Davis’ long, flowing locks were shaved off during a spring charity event. The event was the result of about $40,000 of arm-twisting donations from Cubs veterans.

— Gordon Wittenmyer covers the Cubs for the Chicago Sun-Times

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