SPORTS

How Mike Piazza Helped Me Come To Terms With Being A Mets Fan

He energized not only the franchise, but the fan base.

It was June 30, 2000, a Friday, and the New York Mets were playing the Atlanta Braves on Channel 11, New York's WPIX.

At the time, being able to watch any Mets game was a rarity. I was only 9 years old at the time, and my parents couldn't afford cable, so I was only able to watch Mets games on weekends, when they aired on channels that could be viewed with an antenna.

But this one was special. In typical Mets fashion, the team was down 8-1 headed into the bottom of the eighth against their dreaded rivals. As usual, it appeared they were going to be bested by Atlanta. 

Then, New York put together a string of hits and the Braves' pitchers started walking player after player. Before fans knew it, the Mets had tied the game 8-8.

Finally, our catcher, Mike Piazza, walked to the plate. With runners on first and second, he belted a three-run home run that landed just inside the left field line, sealing the win. Shea Stadium went berserk that night, and I went berserk in my small Flushing apartment.

When the National Baseball Hall of Fame elected Mike Piazza Wednesday night, of course analysts discussed his impressive career statistics: 427 home runs, a .308 batting average, 12 All-Star selections.

But for Mets fans, including this one, the catcher's importance cannot be summed up with numbers. Piazza brought our franchise back to life.

When he was traded to the Mets in May 1998, the team had not made the playoffs since 1988. That changed soon after Piazza joined the team. The Mets made it to the NLCS in 1999 and the World Series in 2000. And although they were unable to win it all in those seasons, his intimidating presence and power bat in the lineup played a huge role in the team's success.

For all the success Piazza had on the field, what I, and many others sports fans, remember even most is his memorable home run in the first game in New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. 

As a 10-year-old at the time who was confused by the greater significance of the attacks and what they meant for my city, the only thing that made sense in my mind were these Mets games, and Piazza's home run helped carry people through. 

Piazza will be the second player in team history to don a Mets cap when he is inducted into the Hall of Fame, pitcher Tom Seaver being the first. It feels fitting that those two will be connected together. Piazza became the face of the franchise from the late-1990s to the mid-2000s the way Seaver did between the mid-60s to the mid-70s.

Being a Mets fan is tough. The team is full of constant disappointments and is currently heading into their 30th season without a World Series title. But for all the heartbreak that comes with rooting for that team from Flushing, I've learned to embrace being Mets fan, due in large part to the man who hit those huge home run on that summer night in 2000. And then again, on a September night the next year. 

 

 

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