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07/19/2006 5:00 PM ET
Major League Baseball International to conduct European Baseball Academy July 27-Aug. 18 in Italy
Jim Lefebvre, Bruce Hurst, Lee Smith and Rod Carew to instruct elite youth players from Europe and Africa
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Major League Baseball International (MLBI) will hold its second annual European Baseball Academy from July 27 through August 18 in Tirrenia, Italy. The Academy, held at the Italian National Olympic Training Center, will provide top-level instruction to some of the best young baseball players from 13 countries throughout Europe and Africa.

The European Baseball Academy will include 60 of the top baseball players ages 15-to-19, from 10 European countries (Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden) and three African nations (Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda). Participants, all National or Junior National Team players, were selected by the Major League Scouting Bureau in April after undergoing rigorous tryouts throughout Europe.

The Major League Scouting Bureau and seven Major League Clubs sent scouts to last year's inaugural Academy, signing four players to professional contracts. Third baseman Alex Liddi (Italy) and outfielder Kalian Sams (Netherlands) signed with the Seattle Mariners, right-handed pitcher Jacob Toufar (Czech Republic) was inked by the Minnesota Twins, and Alessandro Maestri (Italy) received a contract from the Chicago Cubs.

Maestri pitched in two games for Italy's national team in the inaugural World Baseball Classic, while fellow 2005 Academy participants Kyle Botha, Jared Elario, Shannon Ekermans, Dylan Haynes and Zaid Hendricks all represented Team South Africa in the tournament. Additionally, Petr Chech, an 18 year-old catcher from the Czech Republic, recently signed a professional contract with the Cincinnati Reds after his outstanding performance at this April's Academy tryout held in Prague.

"The goal of the Academy is to raise the level of play among young ballplayers in Europe and Africa," said Paul Archey, Senior Vice President, MLB International. "Players and coaches attending the Academy will not only develop their individual baseball skills, but bring what they learn back to their countries and stimulate advancement in the game."

Former Major League player and manager Jim Lefebvre and former Major League pitcher Bruce Hurst will once again lead the European Baseball Academy. In March, Lefebvre and Hurst served as manager and pitching coach, respectively, for Team China in the World Baseball Classic.

"The Academy is committed to providing promising junior players with both the environment and instruction to reach their full potential," said Lefebvre. "The baseball talent level in Europe and Africa has continued to evolve and this Academy adds significantly to the momentum their advancement."

Lefevbre and Hurst will be joined by a Major League-caliber coaching staff at this year's Academy, which includes: Hall-of-Famer Rod Carew (hitting instructor); all-time Major League Baseball saves leader Lee Smith (pitching instructor - San Francisco Giants); Billy Gasparino (infield instructor - Toronto Blue Jays) and German Geigel (outfield instructor - Detroit Tigers). Rounding out the instructional staff will be Jeff Krushell (head of strength and conditioning program - formerly with Toronto Blue Jays), Paul Spicuzza (head of medical training staff - formerly with Cleveland Indians) and Nick Leto (clubhouse/equipment manager - Atlanta Braves, Disney Complex).

While the focus at the Academy is on fundamentals, developing individual position skills and conditioning, players also participate in nightly Life Skills Seminars, which include such topics as sports Nutrition, Goal Setting, MLB Club Organizational Structure, and Life in the Minor Leagues. Select federation representatives have been invited to train alongside the MLB coaching staff during one-week placements at the Academy. Additionally, MLB field staff will conduct a youth clinic for U.S. Army children stationed at nearby Camp Darby. At the Academy's conclusion, the baseball equipment used will be donated to participating federations in order to continue the development of baseball throughout Europe and Africa.

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