Mets Hall of Famer Piazza in camp as guest instructor
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) Newly elected Hall of Famer - and car dealership owner - Mike Piazza has some advice for New York Mets star center fielder Yoenis Cespedes.
''I see he's been working on his collection of cars,'' Piazza said, referring to the parade of custom vehicles Cespedes drove to Tradition Field this past week. ''I don't care what you drive as long as you drive in runs. That's the key.''
Piazza, who hit the most home runs of any catcher in history, was in Mets camp as a guest instructor Sunday.
Piazza played with the Mets from 1998-2005 and helped the team reach the World Series in 2000. He says he can relate to Cespedes, who hit 17 home runs and drove in 44 runs during the final two months last season after being acquired from the Detroit Tigers at the trading deadline.
''He's going to be expected to do a lot and I have a little bit of experience knowing that pressure,'' Piazza said.
Piazza was traded from the Marlins to the Mets in May 1998. He hit .348 with 23 homers and 76 RBIs after joining New York that season.
''I hope he's able to discipline himself and really refine his strike zone and realize when pitchers are not pitching to him, he's got to take his walks. I think you saw that in the World Series a little bit. He just got too anxious and tried to do too much. He was just swinging, trying to hit the ball out of the stadium.''
''I think he's going to be fine. I think he's so talented. The key for him is not to try to do too much when he's expected to do much. If he gets a hit and a walk in a game, that's (a) .333 (batting average). That's the way I look at the game. Let the guys around you do their job. He's a smart hitter,'' he said.
Keeping with the car theme, Piazza said catching the current Mets pitching staff of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon is like driving a different sports car each day.
''One day you have a Ferrari, the next day you have a Porsche,'' Piazza said. ''Even some of the younger kids coming up and some of the additions to the bullpen - it's always great when you see that ability. It's one thing to have that talent, it's another thing to refine it and get everybody on the same page.''
''I was talking with (owner) Fred (Wilpon) and (manager) Terry (Collins) and it seems even though these guys are exciting and dynamic and have a lot of personality, it seems they have a really great team concept,'' he said. ''Obviously, the expectations are higher this year. All of us expect them to get back to the postseason this year. I think that's a big goal and something they should focus on and hopefully taking it over the top this year.''
As for his own year - he was elected to the Hall in January, will be inducted July 24 and have his No. 31 retired by the Mets on July 30 - Piazza said he's ''over the moon.''
''It's so nice to share it with the Mets organization and the fans who have been so good to me,'' he said. ''It's so nice to see the faces of people and how happy they are. To go in as Met, for me, is something, as I've said earlier, very special because of my connection with the city and the fans.''
''I'm over the moon with just happiness and joy. As I've said many times, it's a title and hall that is truly, no question, the most recognizable in sports. To be part of that is an honor. The reality still hasn't sunk in,'' he said.