In an emotional speech on Sunday, July 24, in Cooperstown, New York, catcher Mike Piazza — who played 16 years, with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics — thanked everyone who helped him get into Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
(Reportedly he began the day with a 7:30 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, received a special blessing and signed autographs for parishioners.)
Here are some highlights from Piazza’s nearly half-hour speech (the whole thing can be seen here).
In the speech, Piazza referenced a home run he made during the first game the New York Mets played after the Islamist terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. Citing the Gospel of John, in which Jesus said that, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Piazza gave all honor to the first responders and the resilient people of New York City. But fans will always remember this:
Piazza is also a faithful Catholic, and after a heartfelt tribute to his father, Vince, the son of Italian immigrants, he said:
We made it, Dad. The race is over. Now it’s time to smell the roses.
Then, to his mother, Veronica, he said:
My mother gave me the greatest gift a mother could give a child. She gave me the gift of my Catholic faith, which has had a profound impact on my career and has given me patience, compassion and hope. Pope Benedict XVI …says, “One who has hope lives differently.” Mom, you raised five boys, mostly on your own, and you’re always there for me.
… Mom, you were the glue in our family, and a true woman of God. Thank you.
Piazza has never been shy in talking about the Faith, especially as it relates to being a man, a husband and a father, such as here:
He also participated in Family Theater’s “Faith Bowl III,” in which he said:
It’s about not giving into the pressures and the outside static. It’s knowing, “Hey, you’re a man; you chose to have a family, then buck up, man, and do your job. Be accountable to your wife and accountable to your kids.”
Here’s more from that:
He’s also a proud member of Catholic Athletes for Christ, which congratulated him earlier this year when his induction was announced:
Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC) congratulates Mike Piazza on his election to Baseball’s Hall of Fame on January 6. Piazza will be inducted, along with Ken Griffey, Jr., on July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Toward the end of his career, as well as throughout his retirement from the game, Piazza has been active in promoting and advancing CAC’s activities, especially its Major League Baseball ministry.
CAC’s President and Founder Ray McKenna said, “On behalf of everyone associated with Catholic Athletes for Christ, I send sincere and heartfelt congratulations to Mike upon his election to the Hall of Fame. This honor is well-deserved as Mike is undoubtedly the greatest hitting catcher of all time. Beyond his many baseball achievements, he is true representative of CAC and the Catholic church. Mike is a very active CAC Board Member and his maturity of faith, hard work, and the grace of God have brought him to milestone achievement.”
Not all professional athletes, and not all men, and certainly not all Catholic men, live up to the challenges placed before them. Piazza is as flawed a human being as the next person, but it’s gratifying to see someone in the public eye who’s willing to be a strong advocate for the Faith and for Truth.
Congrats, Mike Piazza, you’ve earned it.
Images: MLB screenshot