Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza was not only an integral cog in the Mets 1998-2005 teams, but he has been a presence in the organization since retiring. Piazza has visited the Mets during Spring Training multiple times in the past and continued that tradition in 2017. He was present early Monday morning at First Data Field after flying from Italy.
Piazza may be retired from baseball, but ever since purchasing the team in June 2016, he has had plenty of work to keep him busy. Piazza travels to Italy once a month to deal with the business aspect of owning a third-division soccer team called A.C. Reggiana.
“It’s been an amazing project,” Piazza told Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. “It’s been a lot of fun, going to experience another culture, and the way obviously soccer in Italy is loved. It’s been an amazing project for me, and it’s a business, too. I’m learning a lot from the business side, and learning a lot to be a small version of an owner of a team — hopefully larger one day.”
Piazza’s competitive nature helped him to do the impossible: go from being drafted in the 62nd round of the MLB Draft to being inducted into the Hall of Fame. That competitive nature carries over into business as his five-year plan is to help propel A.C. Reggiana to Serie A; Italy’s top-ranked soccer division.
Even with his other obligations, the former Met still made time to visit the team. Plenty of players took advantage of his availability and spoke with him on Monday. Among those players was Travis d’Arnaud who has worked closely with Piazza over the past years.
The former first-round pick had an extremely poor year in 2016. He was often injured, but even when healthy he didn’t produce, hitting only four home runs, driving in 15 RBI, scoring 27 runs, and batting .247/.307/.323/.629 in 75 games and 251 at bats.
Despite the free agent status of All Star Matt Wieters, the Mets decided not to seek an upgrade at the position during the offseason as they hoped d’Arnaud would establish himself in 2017. For what it’s worth, he has rewarded them so far in Spring Training. In 11 games and 29 at bats, he has clubbed two home runs, driven in four runs, scored four runs, and batted .345/.367/.621/.987. While it’s only 11 Spring Training games, it’s still a confidence-booster for him and obviously better than seeing him underperform.
Piazza feels d’Arnaud is a key for the Mets to return to the Fall Classic in 2017, a team he is excited about in general. The way they played in September 2016 showed him the exciting win-now attitude of the club. ”I’m excited about the team,” Piazza said. “I think they have some real positives, and they know how to win now, the way they came back in the last month last year. It’s exciting to watch. Hopefully they’ll get off to a better start and put themselves in a good position for the postseason again.”