(Sun-Times correspondent Jason Skoda provided the following Anthony Rizzo comments from Arizona, where he and a few other reporters talked to Rizzo on Saturday when he returned from Italy's surprising run into the second round of the World Baseball Classic):
MESA, Ariz. -- First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who returned Saturday from Team Italy's run in the WBC, said it was "bittersweet" to be back now, because of the disappointing elimination Wednesday, but that he values the experience as he prepares for the Cubs' season.
"It was unexplainable and a lot of fun, especially with the group of guys and the coaching staff we had," he said. "We all had a great time and there were no egos. You really had to slow the game down as much as possible. Every single pitch, every inning, and later on the at-bats mean even more. It is really about slowing the game down a little more and focusing.
"It is something I wouldn't be able to get here, or even in the regular season. If you lose a game, you still play tomorrow, where this was like a playoff atmosphere where if you lose you're done."
Rizzo said he's ready to shift the intensity to his focus on getting ready for his first Opening Day as a big leaguer - but he doesn't figure he'll ever forget the Team Italy experience.
He's even thinking about making plans for a trip to Italy to see some of his WBC teammates.
"I figure I'll go and see the country first and get away from the baseball and see some of the guys and see what their hometowns are about and have some good food," he said. "They were so nice to all of us and they were so excited to be there. I think that's why the team did well. No one was selfish. We had fun and no one had egos."
He said it's too early to talk about the 2017 WBC. He might be invited to be part of the United States roster by then.
"It was a great experience this year," he said. "No one expected us to do well. The competition we played was way better than the talent on our team, but that's baseball. ... We gave everyone a run for their money."