Mike Piazza discussed the impact of faith in his life as a child in Pennsylvania, through a Hall of Fame baseball career and now as a husband and father as the former Mets catcher was interviewed as part of the “Faith: The Competitive Edge” series July 26 at The Sheen Center’s Loreto Theater.
“One of the things for me is to relay the message how important my faith was to me growing up, in the development of my career, and the gifts it gave me, the patience it gave me and the perseverance it gave me. And just to tell them life is full of challenges and difficulties and hurdles, but we always have to try to reach down deep to what we believe and trust that God has us,” Piazza told Catholic New York about his message to fans.
“There is always a plan even though it may not be the plan we wish for, but to try to trust, let go and believe.”
Piazza, the second of five sons of Vince and Veronica Piazza, was a 62nd-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1988 Major League Baseball Draft. He had a 16-year career in the major leagues and is remembered for being one of the game’s all-time best hitting catchers. The 1993 National League Rookie of the Year and 12-time all-star had a career average of .308 with 427 home runs and 1,335 RBIs.
A 2016 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Piazza led the Mets to the 2000 World Series against the Yankees, and a year later delivered a two-run home run in bottom of the eighth to defeat the rival Atlanta Braves, 3-2, in the first game played in New York following 9/11.
The home run helped heal and unite New Yorkers on a day Piazza said he turned to God for strength to help him through the emotional day. “I believe that God put wind underneath my wings and helped me through that night, and obviously I was in the right place at the right time,” he said.
Piazza, 53, is married to actress and model Alicia Rickter, and they are the parents of three children—Marco, Nicoletta and Paulina.
“It’s something I’ve tried to impose on my children and raise them in the faith,” Piazza said. “It's one of the obligations we have to educate and bring up the next generation with those beliefs, knowing we’re far from perfect and we make mistakes, but there is a trusting and loving God that will be there to forgive us.”
Piazza also was in New York to attend the Subway Series between the Mets and Yankees at Citi Field with both teams entering the series in first place in their respective divisions.
Piazza was a part of the early Subway Series regular-season games of the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as the 2000 World Series between the two New York teams.
“We had some special games,” he said. “The games were incredible. I love the rivalry between the two teams. The Yankees obviously have a longer history and just a few more championships, not that many, but the Mets have great history too and that’s one of the things I’ve been working with them in the last few years to recapture our heritage, reconnect with the fans and reconnect with the teams of our past and the great players of our past.
“We don't have 27-plus championships but we have some very interesting and colorful teams, arguably the greatest miracle of all time, the miracle Mets of ’69. So it’s just something we need to continue to celebrate and inspire the players of the present.”
Joe Franza, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in East Islip, L.I., was sporting a Mets golf shirt when he encountered Piazza at the meet and greet.
“Mike is an idol of mine and definitely a big part of why I’m a big Mets fan today. My dad and Mike are big parts of why I’m a big Mets fan,” said Franza, 32.
“It’s always good to hear from others how their life goes, how things went for them, and the idea of what he went through and how he’s utilized religious beliefs and otherwise to get where he is today.”
Piazza’s talk was the second installment of “Faith: The Competitive Edge,” a series of talks with athletes to discuss their careers and faith that was inspired by the Vatican’s Sport at the Service of Humanity movement. The series began May 4 with Hockey Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine and will continue Wednesday, Sept. 28, with Lonnie Ali, wife of boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
Leslie Maxie, a 1988 U.S. Olympian in track and field and journalist, serves as the interviewer and host of the series.
“Outside the fact that she was married to Muhammad Ali, I just think that I’ve followed her and am familiar with the work she’s does as an activist and as a champion of women,” Ms. Maxie said. “I think she’s spectacular. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Ms. Maxie said being a part of the series has been exceptionally rewarding.
“The opportunity to talk about something that you’re passionate about, that you really believe in, it doesn’t feel like work,” she said.
“I hope people connect with what we’re doing and come out and enjoy the series themselves, and get a chance to see a different side of sports figures.”