ITALY IS MIKE PIAZZA’S WEAKNESS (IT’S AMORE)
Mike Piazza’s weakness it’s italian baseball.
A New York Time news.
In his later days with the Mets, as his skills slipped with age, Mike Piazza often seemed distant and detached. Even in his heyday, he sometimes seemed more comfortable talking music with a reporter than he did chatting up teammates about baseball.
Mike Piazza embraced his role as a teacher and a leader for Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
His grandparents were Italian.
It was no surprise, then, that Piazza, at 37, enthusiastically joined the Italian team for the World Baseball Classic. He is serious about helping the game grow in Italy, and his brief time here gave him a chance to embrace a new role as a spirited teacher and leader.
“The first time I saw him, he spent a couple of hours talking with me and some of the guys from Italy,” said Riccardo De Santis, a 26-year-old pitcher for Grosetto of the Italian League.
“He’s just one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He tries to help you anytime. Everything he told me, I will remember for sure.”
When he goes home to Italy, De Santis will also remember Thursday’s game, when he threw a sinker over the plate to a former major league home run champion.
The hitter, Adrian Beltre of the Dominican Republic, punished the pitch, hitting it through the wind and over the center field fence for a three-run homer.
The Dominicans won, 8-3, clinching a berth in the second round of the tournament. Italy lost two of its three games in this round, and was eliminated on Thursday when Venezuela defeated Australia, 2-0, in the night game at The Ballpark at Disney.
There are other major leaguers on the Italian team, including Frank Catalanotto of the Blue Jays and Mike Gallo of the Astros, but Piazza is by far the marquee name. He went 1 for 11 in three games, including 0 for 4 against the Dominican Republic on Thursday.
“I felt like I took a couple better swings later in the game, but obviously, the sand ran out of time on us,” Piazza said. “But as I told the Italian guys, you want to play the best. I’m happy they threw their best guns at us.”
For Italy, simply showing up was a victory of sorts. Italian professional baseball dates to 1948, but it is still in its infancy in some ways.
“Oh, it’s not very popular,” said Alessandro Maestri, 21, a pitcher from Viserba di Rimini. “It’s all soccer in Italy. And everybody talks about soccer and maybe some basketball there, too. But also, with this, we’ll start growing.”
That was the point of Piazza’s participation. He explained the other night that his grandfather, Rosario Piazza, was a welder from a small town on the southwest coast of Sicily. His grandmother was from Naples, and they met on their way to the United States.
“Matty and I have been talking about how wonderful it is to kind of reconnect with our ancestry, with our roots over there,” Piazza said, referring to Manager Matt Galante, a former Mets coach. “The Italian players and staff have been so gracious to us and have welcomed us and made us feel comfortable. We wanted this to be an important event for us, and we think we are building a bridge here for the future.”
Piazza pledged to be part of that bridge after the tournament. Only six native Italians have played in the major leagues, and none since 1962. But Piazza said his teammates were eager to learn, and he wants to keep helping.
“We all talked right now,” he said. “We’re going to stay in touch and be on call anytime they need us to help further this program. Our dream one day is to have this team be a champion.”
We can say that Mike Piazza’s weakness is italian baseball.