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Maestri's Orix NPB debut is a family affair08/14/2012 2:30 AM ET
By Alexis Brudnicki
TORONTO, 14 August - He made it to the big leagues.
And he was impressive.
Alex Maestri got his first start of the season for the Orix Buffaloes of the Nippon Professional Baseball league on Sunday, and he certainly rose to the occasion. Brisbane’s 2011/12 ace right-hander went 6 1/3 innings allowing just one run on four hits, striking out five batters and earning the win.
Making the event even more memorable was that he got to do it in front of a few friends and family. In fact, Maestri made his way into the starting rotation for Orix just three days after his older brother Francesco and two friends arrived in Japan from Italy.
The 27-year-old has been anticipating his brother’s visit since Francesco first made the announcement that he would be coming over a month ago. Finally together in the same country, Alex wasn’t sure at first if his brother would even be able to join him on the road for his game, but he did, and his presence made the victory that much better.
“It’s great that I got a chance to come to Japan,” Alex said in a post-game interview. “I’m really thankful the manager gave me a chance to come up and play and I’m just very happy right now. I’ve got my brother up here, too, so it’s good to have him here with me.”
The moment is one that Francesco certainly won’t soon forget.
“It was unbelievable,” the elder Maestri brother said. “The entire stadium was cheering and everybody was jumping and singing. It was a real show. Alex had some problems in the second inning, but then he came out of it perfectly.
“When they interviewed him, he told everyone in the stadium over the microphone, ‘My family is over there,’ pointing at us and the whole stadium was looking at us and clapping their hands. It was exciting.”
This entire year has been an exciting time for Maestri. Since the Australian Baseball League season finished, he has capitalised on opportunity after opportunity, making the most of each chance he’s been given.
After starting the season with the Kagawa Olive Guyners, an independent team, the "Italian Stallion" had his contract purchased by the Buffaloes organisation in the second week of July. The righty then worked his way up from the farm team to the top-ranked league in Japan.
“It was awesome,” he said. “It was a really good night. The stadium was packed and the fans get really into it, with their drums and trumpets and instruments. They have chants for all the different players. It’s pretty cool. It’s easier for me to pitch in a stadium when there is a lot of noise and the crowd is really into the game.”
Brisbane’s fan favourite is already making his mark with the Japanese audiences, thanking them in their native tongue, acknowledging the hometown fans at the opposition’s stadium, and showing genuine gratitude for their interest in him.
After the win, more than one Italian flag was spotted at the ballpark, Maestri stopping for several pictures with one in particular. The support for the right-handed hurler also flowed to him through Facebook and several other outlets.
“We are so proud of him,” Bandits General Manager Paul Gonzalez said. “He deserves to be rewarded for all of his hard work.”
Maestri doesn’t yet know exactly when his next start for Orix will be, but he is excited to continue his progress with the new team.
“I had a good game and everything went like I wanted it to,” he said. “I got the win and it was really nice. But, now it’s onto the next one. We’re going back home so it will be nice to pitch in front of the home crowd."