I’ve never been a big fan of Mike Piazza the person, a fact I’ve mentioned here a few times, but after being at yesterday’s induction ceremony of Piazza into the Mets Hall of Fame, I’m ready to change my view of Piazza the person. I’ve always admired Piazza the player, defending his Baseball Hall of Fame credentials and calling out the media dumb asses who scream “Steroid User” but the times I’ve encounter Piazza he was always so standoffish and aloof, yesterday was a whole different Mike Piazza.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the press conference that Piazza held before the on field ceremony, as Mike entered the press conference room, I ran up with my recorder to leave on the desk. I congratulated Piazza of his induction and stuck out my hand. As we shook hands he looked me in the eye and thanked me and said how happy he was to be at Citi Field today and thankful he was to the Mets for arranging this day for him and his family. This is not the Mike Piazza I knew, this was the new and improved Mike Piazza, one I like very much.
Piazza is married with three children, as a guy with kids I tend to think being a daddy is what has mellowed Mike. I know it did it for me. No matter how bad a day you’ve had, just knowing that when you get home there’s a family waiting for you ready to make you the most important man in the world is indeed humbling.
The ceremony was first class all the way. Piazza was genuinely touched by the outpouring of love from the fans (tip of the blue Mets cap to Darren Meenan of The 7 Line for getting the 7 Line Army out for the game and giving Piazza a rousing welcome) and really enjoyed soaking in the adulation from a packed Citi Field. Piazza spoke about his love for the Mets, New York, and the fans. This is the first time I’ve ever heard Piazza talk about his love for us, the Mets fans and his pride in being a New York Met.
From his speech, what may have turned the corner for him in realizing how much he means to Mets fans, was when he spoke about when he came back to play the Mets as a San Diego Padre, and was cheered like he was still a hometown hero.
The most emotional parts of the ceremony was when Piazza, turned to his dad Vince, who was on the field in a wheelchair, and in a voice cracking with emotion thanked him for all he did for him and was so glad that he was with him yesterday since Vince had suffered a stroke earlier this year.
I really hope that Piazza does not become a stranger around these parts. I hope that the jackals who refused to cast his name for enshrinement into Cooperstown realize that they’ve made their self-righteous statement and now it’s time to give the man his due. I hope for nothing more for Mike’s dad to see and enjoy watching his son make his next acceptance speech in Cooperstown, NY