Roberto De Franceschi
Roberto De Franceschi
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 11", Weight 198 lb.
Outfielder Roberto De Franceschi is the all-time Italian Baseball League hit leader and was a two-time Olympian.
Roberto debuted with Nettuno, his hometown club, in 1984. The teenager was then a catcher and put on a show, going 12 for 29 with 2 walks, 18 total bases and 13 runs. Moving to center field, his primary position, in 1985, he batted .242/.286/.347 followed by .220/.274/.268 in 1986. In 1987, De Franceschi improved to .326/.383/.464. He hit .315/.369/.432 in '88. The next year, the 23/24-year-old batted .292/.366/.467 with 35 runs in 36 games.
In 1990, De Franceschi had a batting line of .351/.443/.498 with 55 runs in 65 games. He was 8 for 25 with a triple and a homer in the finals as Nettuno took their first title of his career. The Nettuno flyhawk hit .308/.393/.431 with 33 runs and 32 RBI in 35 contests during '91. In 1992, Roberto batted .276/.356/.495.
De Franceschi hit .383/.450/.494 in the 1993 campaign with 38 runs in 36 games. He was second on the club in average behind Jessie Reid as they went on to a title (Roberto was only 3 for 19 in the finals).
Finally making it to the Italian national team, De Franceschi helped Italy win a Gold Medal at the 1993 European Championship, producing at a .382/.512/.441 clip and fielding .963 in center with one assist in nine games. He tied Antonio Salazar] for second in the event with 12 runs, tied Marcel Joost for 5th with 13 hits, tied for 5th with 8 walks, was 8th in average (between Jeffrey Cranston and Olof Lindfors) and was 7th in OBP. He hit .364/.464/.727 with 7 runs in 7 games in the 1993 Intercontinental Cup, one of just a couple bright spots on a 2-7 team; he edged Guglielmo Trinci for the Italian lead in OPS.
Roberto began his second decade in Italy's top circuit by batting .369/.447/.455 with 63 runs in 45 games; he went 12 for 14 in steal attempts for his first time in double digits in that department. He was one run behind leader (and former big leaguer) Steve Carter. In the 1994 Baseball World Cup, he hit .269/.367/.308 with 6 runs in 8 games. Playing every game in center field, he had one assist and no errors.
De Franceschi batted .374/.466/.483 in 1995 with 44 runs in 46 games. In the 1995 European Championship, he hit .348/~.444/.478 as Italy won Silver; he made the tourney All-Star outfield alongside Spain's Oscar Rebolleda and French star Arnaud Fau. In the 1995 Intercontinental Cup, he was 5 for 17 with a double and a homer while playing left field for Italy; he led the Italian squad with five RBI.
In 1996, the veteran produced at a .365/.424/.562 rate with a career-high 17 steals in 19 tries and 7 homers, a new high to that point for himself. He scored 68 runs in 49 games. In the 1996 Olympics, De Franceschi was 1 for 6 with a walk, backing up Enrico Vecchi in center field.
De Franceschi kept it up and then some in '97, hitting .429/.504/.629 with 27 doubles, 74 runs and 59 RBI in 51 games. He only hit .159 in the finals but Nettuno took the pennant. He tied for second in the league in runs and led in doubles. He hit .545 in the round-robin phase of the 1997 European Championship and Italy won the Gold Medal. He was 6th in average, tied for 6th with 9 runs and tied for fourth with three steals. He hit .280/.333/.400 as Italy's #2 threat after Alessandro Flisi in the 1997 Intercontinental Cup.
At age 32/33 in 1998, Roberto hit .429/.508/.662 with 22 doubles and 72 runs scored in 48 games. He led the loop in both two-baggers and runs. He was then 5 for 17 with five runs in the finals, won by Nettuno. In the 1998 Baseball World Cup, he batted only .194/.375/.194 with 4 runs produced in 10 games as one of Italy's worst performers. Italy made it to the Bronze Medal game for the second time ever; in the 5-1 loss to Nicaragua, he was 0 for 3 and ground into a double play.
De Franceschi's batting line in 1999 was .274/.362/.426 while his run total fell to 37 in 48 games. He played in the 1999 European Championship, hitting .222/.462/.278 with 7 walks and 7 runs in five games. He tied for fourth in the event in runs behind former major leaguer Rikkert Faneyte, former minor leaguer Claudio Liverziani and Tomáš Ovesný.
He hit .277/.401/.441 with 48 runs in 48 games in 2000 but he only eked out a .219/.219/.313 line as Italy's main center fielder in the 2000 Olympics. One positive was error-free ball with one assist in center.
In '01, Roberto batted .336/.412/.526 with 52 runs in 53 games; he was 5th in the league in runs in his age-36 season. He was 3 for 19 in the finals, won by Nettuno. In his last major event for the Azzurri, he hit .345/.441/.483 in the 2001 European Championship, when they failed to take a Medal for the first time in four decades. He tied Francesco Casolari for the team lead with nine runs in eight games despite his age. Only Sylvain Hervieux of France scored more runs in the tourney. He joined Brad Marcelino and Remy Maduro as the All-Star outfielders in the event.
During 2002, De Franceschi hit .307/.397/.429. That season, he moved to first base, ending a 17-year run in which center field was his primary spot.
In 2003, the Nettuno native ended his 20-year run with his hometown club by batting .297/.383/.436. The next year, he moved to Grosseto and hit .263/.346/.373 with 47 runs in 54 games. Their right fielder, he helped them to a pennant. At age 39, he tied Jhonny Carvajal for fifth in Italy in runs scored.
De Franceschi produced at a .258/.346/.383 rate for Grosseto in 2005, showing his age. The next year, he hit .172/.277/.205 for the club at age 41. He did not call it quits, though, joining Godo for 2007 and hitting .257/.303/.341. He batted .241/.326/.353 for Godo in '08 and .186/.227/.221 in 2009 at age 44.
De Franceschi, through 2009, had a career batting line of .302/.382/.433 with 1,061 runs and 1,536 hits in 1,348 games. He had also pitched 12 games in his career, going 1-1 with a 4.84 ERA. Up to that point, he ranked as Italy's all-time leader in games (152 more than Paolo Ceccaroli) and hits (198 ahead of Ruggero Bagialemani). He was also among the leaders in RBI (750, 10th) and runs (2nd, 39 behind leader Roberto Bianchi). Returning to Nettuno for one last season, hitting .226/.268/.283 as a bench player in 2010.
He announced his retirement in January 2011 and became Nettuno's hitting coach. He retired as Italy's career leader in games played (1,369), plate appearances (5,141), hits (1,548), doubles (322), sacrifice hits (80) and times hit by pitch (123). In 2015, he was inducted into the Italian Baseball Hall of Fame.