For so many Mets fans my age Mike Piazza was the first player they fell in love with. He was the big name in the early 2000s, yesterday’s David Wright. But when I think of Mike Piazza I do not think of falling in love with the Mets for the first time. For me, Mike Piazza was more than the biggest name on the Mets, he was the Mets.
Growing up my house was, unfortunately, dominated by the Yankees. The Mets did not hold a significant place in our house until the end of 2004. There is not really a reason for the dynamic working this way, but for most of my childhood I heard the names Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera more than I heard Mike Piazza and Edgardo Alfonzo.
However, when I did hear about the Mets the only player I cared to hear about was Piazza. He was the Mets. He was the one who was part of all that noise during the World Series in 2000. His name was the one on the back of my brother’s Mets jersey. When I went to my first game at Shea Stadium, he was the one I knew to cheer for. He simply was the reason that other New York team existed at all.
Mike Piazza was the only Mets player on the Backyard Baseball 2001 team I shared with my brother.
When I did finally follow the Mets for a full season in 2005 Mike Piazza was one of the biggest reasons I stuck around. I knew it was likely his last year with the team and that just made me want to enjoy his season even more. David Wright was there but he was still young, someone there was still a lot he had to prove in his career. Piazza was the sure thing for the Mets; he was the one I knew I could love and not be let down.
I was at Shea in 2006 when he came back with the Padres. I was in the crowd cheering for his first two home runs, and booing after the long fly-out that was almost his third homer. For me, that is a big Piazza memory.
Sure, now I know about the 1999 team and the September 21, 2001 home run and his other big Mets moments. But this knowledge came after I knew him as the guy on the Mets.
I was only four years old on May 22, 1998 when Mike Piazza was traded to the Mets. That day changed my life, I just did not know it until a few years later.