I've written many gushing, glowing posts about Mike Piazza, who I still maintain is the greatest Met I've ever had the pleasure of seeing in person. I pretty much devoured every moment of his Mets career. I was there on Day 1, I was there on the last day, I was there when he came back in 2006 as a Padre and hit two Home Runs off Pedro Martinez and became the first, last and only visiting player to get a Curtain Call at Shea Stadium.
Mike liked that particular day too. The love the Mets fans gained for Piazza over his 7 2/3 seasons with the Mets felt deeper than the simple adulation of a sports hero. Mike Piazza was more than simply a great ballplayer. He understood his place as The Guy on the Mets. He knew he'd be counted on more than most to get the big hit, to carry the team, and so many times he rose to the occasion. Mets fans treated Mike Piazza like a King, and deservedly so. But unlike many high-priced superstars, Mike not only recognized how good he had it, but he appreciated the fans for it. I keep thinking back to 1998 and the fans being hard on him through the middle of the season, and how Piazza, a Free Agent to be, didn't need to stay. But he did. He knew even then that the reward was worth the risk. He stuck around and became Met Royalty and even now never forgot the love he received (and continues to receive) from Mets fans.
I know everyone has their favorite Piazza memories, and, sure, a lot of fans come back to the Home Run on September 21, 2001 or the 10-run inning against Atlanta, but I've got several of my own, separate from that. I saw Mike Piazza hit 27 Home Runs as a Met (so that doesn't include the 2 with the Padres), which is more than any other player I've ever seen by a fairly significant margin (David Wright is second, with 21), but it wasn't always a Home Run that was memorable. I witnessed key doubles, key hits, key defensive plays, hell, I even saw him steal a base that proved important. The time he spent here was truly something special, and I'll always love Piazza for providing so many great memories. So, how could I possibly have missed being there on his day?
Here's some video of the ceremony, as an added bonus (Part 3 forthcoming). Sadly, my batteries died just as Piazza was about to begin speaking, so I don't have the most important part of it. Had I know, of course, I might have cut off John Franco and Al Leiter. But you can always watch the whole thing here.