Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Piazza Says It Was Fate

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Piazza Says It Was Fate

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - He knew this route by heart. In another life - before he set down his mask for good, before a pair of dark dress shoes replaced his beat-up baseball cleats - Mike Piazza used to travel this path many times per night.

At 1:14 p.m., Piazza left the first-base dugout, crossed foul territory and made his way toward the plate. He extended his palms outward. He blew kisses to the crowd.

And then he stepped into familiar territory, to the spot where he spent pieces of eight memorable seasons as a Mets catcher. He tapped the edge of the plate with the tip of his left shoe.

Finally, he was home.

"They say that you can count your true friends on one hand," Piazza would tell the crowd moments later.

He raised one of his hands.

"This is where you guys are," Piazza said. "Right here."

The Mets made Piazza the 27th inductee into their Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon at Citi Field. Flanked by teammates and family members, the former catcher was honored before Sunday's season finale against the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I look back now, in retrospect, and realize that it was just fate," Piazza said before the ceremony. "I was just meant to be here. ... Sometimes there's just a destiny in things."

Piazza acknowledged his relationship with Mets fans was not always violets and roses. He sensed hesitance on both sides: Fans wondered whether Piazza was committed to this city; Piazza wondered whether he could carve out a career here.

"I was thinking one of two things," Piazza said. "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 I want to play for them. ... Fortunately, I had that inner ability to focus and realize that this is what I had to do."

He hit .296 with 220 homers and 655 RBI during his eight years with the Mets. …

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