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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Mike Piazza initially thought he might forgo his annual visit to spring training because of the pandemic, but ultimately a sense of duty called.
Now the only living Mets player enshrined in Cooperstown, the former catcher takes his place with the organization seriously. And so, he arrived to camp Monday and began renewing acquaintances with players and staff and forging new relationships.
“I thought it was very important to show up for a few days and reconnect with the guys and wish them luck on the upcoming season,” Piazza said. “To be honest, just one day it’s been a joy. I’ve had some great conversations and met some of the new guys.”
In a lengthy Zoom session with reporters, Piazza touched on various topics of interest:
He is enthusiastic about new owner Steve Cohen.
Though he still hasn’t met the hedge-fund billionaire in person — the logistics have been difficult given that Piazza spends most of the year in Italy, from which he traveled last week — Piazza has heard enough from team president Sandy Alderson and others to believe the Mets are in good hands.
“It seems like [Cohen] has such a passion for the team and you don’t get that successful without taking risks and stepping into new ventures and knowing how a management system works,” Piazza said. “There is always going to be unforeseen circumstances where you have to make adjustments — in any business that is part of sports, but I think the fans should rest well knowing the team is in good hands and the future looks bright.”
Piazza said he and Cohen “have a lot in common as far as his love of history and the heritage of the team.”
He plans to participate in 9/11 ceremonies at Citi Field.
With the Mets and Yankees scheduled to play on 9/11 — the 20th anniversary of the attacks at the World Trade Center — Piazza said he plans to attend.
Piazza hit one of the most memorable home runs in New York baseball history, to beat the Braves at Shea Stadium, in the first sporting event held in NYC following the attacks.
“I’m sure it’s going to be an emotional night,” he said. “I think it’s going to be something done with taste and reverence, but also celebrate the lives as well and the bravery that was 9/11. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers but I am sure it’s going to be an emotional night.
“It’s going to be very difficult, of course, recounting all those memories, but ultimately that’s what I’m sure they would want.That’s the celebration of life instead of the sadness.”
Piazza could envision Jacob deGrom joining him in Cooperstown.
The Mets ace owns two Cy Young awards, and at 32 years old hasn’t shown signs of fading.
“You have to take him seriously,” Piazza said. “One of the things, and I never been a huge minutiae, numbers guy and getting into the arguments, that is for guys who really study the game. I always sort of go with the character or at least the perception of dominance and I don’t know how you cannot take him seriously in that regard, because he is doing some incredible things in market No. 1 and it just doesn’t seem like he is slowing down, he’s been healthy.”
Piazza said he is proud of deGrom and told him not to change anything about the manner in which he approaches his work.
“I think he does everything well and I think hopefully when the dust does settle he could be [in Cooperstown],” Piazza said. “Never give 100 percent, though.”
The Mets have room for additional retired numbers.
As it stands, Piazza (31), Tom Seaver (41), Gil Hodges (14) and Casey Stengel (37) are the franchise’s only retired numbers. In addition, the Mets were set to retire Jerry Koosman’s No. 36 last year, but the pandemic wiped out the ceremony (it will be rescheduled at some point).
Piazza cryptically stated that he envisions further additions.
“One of my greatest joys is to work with the fans and work with the alumni,” he said. “I am going to be a little more aggressive in going to bat for guys and that is something I am going to talk to Steve [Cohen] about that as well.”
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