Very rarely is a team graced with a player of the stature and talent of Michael Joseph Piazza. Subsequently, very rarely does a fanbase and a city mutually bond with a player like Michael Joseph Piazza.
Today as Piazza was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame, fans were able to share yet another special moment with the greatest offensive catcher of all time.
“I look back now, in retrospect, and realize it was just fate,” said Piazza in a press conference prior to his induction ceremony. “I was just meant to be here. That’s that feeling I was talking about. You know, you can talk about agents and numbers and arguments and who’s right and who’s wrong. But if you look at the big picture of life, you realize that sometimes there’s just a destiny in things. And I truly feel it was my plan to be here, in one way, shape or form. It may not have been the most beautiful journey at the time, but it was meant to be.”
Piazza emerged from the home dugout and onto the field for a sellout crowd as master of ceremonies Howie Rose introduced the 12-time all-star. Met greats such as Doc Gooden, Rusty Staub, John Franco, Edgardo Alfonzo, Ed Kranepool, Keith Hernanez, Buddy Harrelson, Al Jackson, Mookie Wilson and Ed Charles were on hand to celebrate the 45-year old.
After Rose announce September 29th Mike Piazza Day in the city of New York, a number of teammates including Alfonzo, Franco commended him on his tremendous accomplishments as well as Al Leiter who did so via video message from MLB Network’s Studio 3.
Then came the induction, in which Franco and Alfonzo presented Piazza with his plaque, to which he proud held overhead for all 41,891 fans see.
In Piazza’s speech, he continued to thank the fans as well as God for his incredible baseball career. He then spoke to his mother and father, in a tearful moment in which he thanked them for all of their hard work in getting him to where he is today, his father visibly emotional.
Piazza then moved into an unfamiliar location, the mound, to throw out the first pitch. Mets captain David Wright acted as the catcher, in a fantastic moment in which Piazza delivered a perfect strike on the left side of the plate, much to the pleasure on an elated crowd, yet another beautiful moment between him and the fans.
“I think, my relationship here with the fans, like any relationship; when I got here they didn’t know me too well,” said Piazza. “They didn’t know anything about me. They didn’t know if I was going to stay. They didn’t know if I was completely committed to staying here. And I had some rough patches. I obviously struggled a little at the plate driving in runs and they let me hear it, and I was thinking to myself, ‘I can do one of two things: I can run and go to somewhere a little more safer and comfortable. Or I can meet this head-on and try to prove to these people that I want to belong and want to play for them and perform for them.’”
Mike Piazza, who with a swing of the bat brought New York City to their feet following the attacks on 9/11, was able to do so with a smile and a wave one more time in a tremendous ceremony of a Mets great.
Hopefully sooner rather than late, we will be able to celebrate Piazza once again, when number 31 is officially in left field among the other immortalized Mets; where it belongs.
(Photo Credits: Clayton Collier)