Piazza enjoying life at 50, arrives at Mets camp

Hall of Famer and guest instructor tells players to savor the moment

February 26th, 2019

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- This is Mike Piazza at 50.

Sitting on a dugout bench Tuesday at First Data Field, Piazza spoke of a life that is both complex and simple. Shortly after becoming a baseball Hall of Famer in 2016, Piazza purchased a third-division Italian soccer team, but ceded control of it two years later during bankruptcy proceedings. Still, Piazza maintains a significant chunk of his life in Italy as a dual citizen, living part-time in Parma with his wife and his children, who attend school in the region. Piazza says his 5-year-old son speaks fluent Italian.

"We're enjoying the European life," Piazza said. "And it's nice, because there's not as much pressure now. You just enjoy it. Drink the vino, and mangia la pasta, and enjoy the life."

It is a more peaceful existence than what Piazza endured during two years running A.C. Reggiana, a soccer club with a storied history. With that chapter of his life in the past, Piazza reported to Mets camp Tuesday to reprise his annual role as a guest instructor and ambassador, working in particular with the organization's catchers. Piazza maintains a successful automobile business stateside, as well as cultural interests on both sides of the Atlantic. His soccer experience offered him perspective, despite the sour ending, which is something he hopes to impart upon the Mets.

"You become more aware of life and the challenges of life that it presents," Piazza said. "Looking back, as a player, you don't really appreciate your career when you're going through it because of the pressures and because of the ups and downs. And that's what I try to tell guys all the time is just, 'Enjoy your career.' Because it goes by that quick."

What comes next, Piazza can't say. He has considered running a vineyard in Italy, or perhaps even dipping back into the sports ownership business -- this time in baseball -- in the States. Neither is a certainty. For now, Piazza will continue living life in both places, with at least one toe dipped in the baseball world.

Three years ago, the Mets retired Piazza's No. 31 in a ceremony at Citi Field, making him the fourth Mets player or manager to receive that honor. Rumblings abound that the Mets could soon include a fifth, David Wright, who played alongside Piazza from 2004-05.

When asked about that possibility, Piazza grinned. "There's room up there for him," he said.

Shaky debut

When returned to the video room Tuesday following his Grapefruit League debut, he noticed immediately a mechanical issue that plagued him during the outing. Pitching out of the windup, Wheeler's body drifted laterally, rather than staying on a straight line toward home plate.

The result was some erraticism and an outing Wheeler would prefer to discard. While a error ensured that both runs against Wheeler would be unearned in a 14-4 split-squad loss to the Tigers, the right-hander also allowed two hits and uncorked a wild pitch during his lone inning.

"My body felt fine, arm felt fine," Wheeler said. "I'm just a little mechanically off. I'll get that cleaned up and just go from there."

The Mets are confident Wheeler will iron out those issues in short order to take his place in the middle of their rotation. His breakout season in 2018 included a 10-1 record with a 1.96 ERA over his last 12 starts.

From the trainer's room

After sitting out the Mets' first three games due to a sore left shoulder, played his first spring game Tuesday against the Tigers at designated hitter. He finished 1-for-5, and plans to take a day off Wednesday before debuting in the outfield on Thursday.

While Nimmo has yet to test his shoulder on full-strength throws, he has thrown up to 150 feet in the outfield with no ill effects.

"I don't really have to uncork anything for a little while," he said. "We're just going to make sure that I can get to the distance needed, and then when we get into game play, we'll make sure it's good to go."

Up next

Another home game awaits the Mets on Wednesday, when they take on the Marlins at First Data Field. will make his Grapefruit League debut opposite another lefty, Wei-Yin Chen. Also scheduled to pitch for the Mets are , Anthony Kay, and Tim Peterson.