By Michael Speziale
Evening Sun Contributor
Photo by Frank and Michael Speziale
…“I long for the days when athletes were revered. I want to see the romance return to sports, to see people enjoy the game purely for the game and the players.” – Mike Piazza
Well Mike, let me be the first to congratulate you today and say you are “revered”. As a 22-year-old native New Yorker, I grew up idolizing Mike Piazza. Not only was he one of the all-time best catchers for the Mets, and the National League, but he was a man that any seven year old boy could look up to. It was the 2000 “Subway Series” World Series against the well-regarded New York Yankees where I was first introduced to Mike Piazza. I was familiar with the name; he had been playing for the Mets since 1998 and was previously on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nonetheless, it was with their loss at the World Series where I wanted to be just like Mike. Ironic isn’t it? I was just a kid, but he was perfect in my eyes.
It was an easy hop, skip and jump for me, a native Long Islander, to head out to Shea Stadium with the family to catch my favorite catcher at bat. We would pray to witness him step on to the diamond and hit one of his iconic home-runs. In his 16 year career (1992-2007), he had .308 batting average with 427 career home-runs, with 10 Silver Slugger Awards and 12 All-Star game selections. The early 2000's were a dishonorable time in baseball. Most players were accused of taking steroids or HGH in order to improve their stats. Piazza never fell for the trap. He was one of the few who was true to the game and played for the love of the sport. It is he, who possibly has the most iconic home-run in the history of the Major League. On September 21, 2001, just ten days after the worst days in New York, and United States, history Piazza reminded us through a simple two-run home-run of nationalism, normalcy, and the importance of coming together. It was an emotional moment for New Yorkers, and surely a moment I will not forget.