Mike Piazza Interview: 7/18/98

When the Mets acquired Mike Piazza on May 22, 1998, I decided I was going to write a feature about him for New York Sportscene magazine. It was an easy pitch to make and get accepted, since I was the editor-in-chief (a reminder that 20-somethings who work for peanuts have always been tossed into the deep end of the pool to see if they can swim).

I knew it’d be tough to get an interview with Piazza, so I decided to use the one thing we had in common: An appreciation of hard rock music. The first time I ever approached him, I asked if it was true he was hoping to run a hard rock radio station upon retirement. That broke the ice and he agreed to the first of what would be many one-on-one interviews.

He went into greater detail in later interviews, a couple of which I’ll post between now and Mike Piazza weekend at Citi Field next week, but even in an introductory setting he offered more than the usual cliches to a mostly unfamiliar face. It probably helped this interview was conducted after a game in which he hit two homers.

Anyway, here you go. Hope you enjoy.

On emerging as an All-Star:

It’s a combination of things. The timing, got an opportunity and got some playing time. Sometimes things just sometimes have a way of working out. Sometimes they don’t. Fortunate I kept positive and, again, just got some breaks and took advantage of them.

Has it been a draining year?

That’s a pretty accurate statement, actually. It’s been tough at times and at times it’s been great. With that, you learn—I’m going to learn from this whole situation. Going to be a better player because of it. Things in life sometimes happen for a reason and adversity builds character. I’ve been very fortunate to end up with a good organization and they treat me very well. The fans have been great. I can’t complain. I’ve been very happy with the reception I’ve gotten and I will continue to work hard and hopefully things will work out.

Revisiting the end of his time in Los Angeles:

Of course, maybe the situation could have been handled different. But it’s already in the past and I don’t see any reason to get back into it. It’s just done. It’s done. It’s a done issue. And of course there’s definitely mistakes on both sides. It just wasn’t a very amicable situation and nothing gets done when, in those situations, you don’t have an ability to compromise. That’s obviously very, very destructive and that’s it. You have to move on. And I’m very happy that I’ve ended up with the Mets.

On proving doubters wrong:

That’s part of the game. Those are the ups and downs of the game. I never expected to come here and be like a white knight in shining armor—knight on a white horse? What’s the expression? Knight in shining armor? There you go (grins). I knew there would be tough times and there have been. It’s been frustrating at times and, again, you can do one of two things: You can get down on yourself and go through hell, or you can learn from it and try and stay positive. As long as you go out there and work hard and give 100 percent, things will eventually turn around, I feel. And if they don’t, it’s time to do something else.

On catching his breath after the series of trades:

Well, it was a unique situation. Very different than anything I’ve been involved in. I’m very very happy to have ended up here. Again, it was a different situation and something that at times was difficult. I made the most of it.

On learning about the disposability of players:

That’s unfortunately the nature of this. The business of baseball is sometimes very complicated. I think the most important thing, on a personal note, (is) you go through life, sort of keep your self-respect and stay positive, you can take a negative situation and make it positive. And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve never complained. Never said ‘Why me?’ or ‘Should have done this, should have done that.’ Things happen. You learn from them and you suck it up and you move on. I never looked at it as a negative. Always looked at it as a positive. You have to sometimes turn the page in life. Sometimes it’s difficult.

On potential contract talks and free agency becoming a distraction:

You sort of ignore it. Not necessarily (just the) contract, a lot of things going on. As far as personally, I would never say that was a problem. When I got on the field, I just feel that the situation, if it doesn’t teach you to be more focused, then you haven’t learned anything from it. Then it was a waste of time. So I think that’s a good thing about it.

On being in a situation in which people would be unhappy no matter where he signs:

You’ve got to accept it. That is the way life is. If you truly look in the mirror and talk with the people who truly love you for you, not because of what you represent, and you truly believe and you pray and you gain strength from within to make the right decision—a decision that you believe in, that’s the right decision, you know what I’m saying? There’s no wrong or right decisions in life. If you truly believe and you look within your heart and you believe that you made the right decision, that’s the right decision, you know what I mean? Then no one can criticize you because of that. And that’s the way I live my life. Something has been telling me to make these decisions, for whatever reason, I don’t know. But I’m very, very spiritual. Family is very close-knit with my loved ones. They’ve stood by for whatever reason. Everybody I know who loves me has stood by me, so how could you say I’ve made a wrong decision or a right decision? If you beat yourself up thinking about what you shouldn’t of or should of or could have done, then that’s wasted energy. The two most wasted emotions are regret and worry because both of them are out of your control. (If) it’s about something that’s already happened, (it) is regret. And worry is about something that hasn’t happened yet. So why would you spend the time needling yourself to death over stuff like that?

Any song that would sum up this season?

(Pauses) Something about twisting, winding roads. Gotta help me out here. Let me think of one. I’m like thinking of 10,000 songs here. I don’t know. You know what’s a good song, believe it or not, that’s not published a lot but it’s a hard rock song? “The Last Train Home” by Armored Saint. Its good. There’s some very good words to it.

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