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When Mario Balotelli headed Italy into a second-half lead over England at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Italians around the globe rejoiced. That included Alessandro “Alex” Maestri, an Italian relief pitcher for the Orix Buffaloes who was watching in Osaka and had a game to suit up for later in the day.

Italy-England began at 7 a.m. Sunday morning in Japan, and Maestri was due at Kyocera Dome a few hours before the scheduled 2 p.m. start of Orix’s game against the Chunichi Dragons. That gave him just enough time to watch the Azzurri’s 2-1 win with two Italian friends that morning, then head to the ballpark and throw a scoreless ninth inning against Chunichi that afternoon.

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