By Randy Mastronicola, Portraits by Sonny Senser
FOR GENERATIONS, New York baseball fans have cheered for a plethora of star and superstar catchers in the game’s history.
Take for example the New York Mets. The team was born in 1962, a few years after the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants moved out West in 1958. The Mets produced a couple of catching All-Stars like Jerry Grote and John Stearns through the years. The team raised the bar significantly with the acquisition of Hall of Famer Gary “The Kid” Carter in 1985. Carter played four seasons with the team, and would help lead the Mets to a World Series victory in 1986.
And then along came Mike Piazza.
The story is well known to baseball die-hards, so here’s the haiku version:
Los Angeles Dodgers manager and legend Tommy Lasorda, as a favor to his friend Vince Piazza, drafted his unheralded first baseman son Mike in 1998. Mike was drafted in the 62nd round as the 1,390th selection. He converted to catcher at Lasorda’s recommendation to improve his chances of rising through the minor league ranks. He did that, and more.
Mike made his indelible mark as a superstar player for the Los Angeles Dodgers. His rookie year was 1992. He played with the club until the start of the 1998 season amidst contract negotiations that eventually went south. The team decided to trade him to the Florida Marlins. (It was a mistake the Dodgers organization regretted for years.) He played all of five games for the Marlins before something magical happened for New Yorkers.
Mike was traded to the New York Mets on May 22, 1998.
He would go on to achieve even greater standing in a Mets uniform over eight seasons. Ultimately, he would enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and choose a New York Mets baseball cap on his plaque to represent his career achievements in baseball.
Mike is now the brand ambassador for TRUE Vodka. His affiliation with the company set the wheels in motion for our conversation.