Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Piazza Returns as Mets' Spring Training Guest Instructor


Catcher Mike Piazza was a member of the New York Mets from 1998 to 2005. On Monday, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com reported that Piazza will be a guest instructor at Port St. Lucie, Mets’ camp, this week.

Prior to the Mets acquiring Piazza in a trade with the then Florida Marlins in 1998, they had not made the playoffs since 1988. Piazza quickly changed that by helping them reach the playoffs two times in eight seasons with the team.

This included the Mets reaching the 2000 World Series. Piazza played a vital role while playing with the Mets.

In eight seasons with the Mets, he hit 220 home runs, had 655 Runs Batted In, RBI, and a .292 batting average. Succeeding 2005, Piazza played two more seasons with two different teams before retiring.

He has been keeping busy since he retired. Beside having a family, he has been a part-time coach with the Italian baseball federation, according to Rubin.

In September, Piazza was inducted into the Mets’ Hall of Fame. During that ceremony, Mets’ chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon invited him to be a guest instructor during Spring Training, according to Rubin.

For me it’s very rewarding to coach and to try to help a little bit,” Piazza said. “So I’m excited to be here…It’s fun to get back in the uniform and be around the clubhouse. And I feel like I have a lot to teach. Obviously I feel like I got a lot out of my ability when I played. If I could just talk to some young guys and maybe help them advance their careers, it’s very rewarding.”

This is the first time Piazza is wearing a Mets’ uniform since 2005. Piazza could help the Mets’ struggling offense.

Last season, they ranked 23rd in runs scored, 25th in home runs, 27th in hits and 29th in batting average. In all of these categories, the Mets were below the league average, according to ESPN.com.

Piazza excelled at all of these categories in his career, so he could help the Mets’ hitters be more productive at the plate.

One player who appeared very excited for Piazza to be in Port St. Lucie this week is catcher Travis d’Arnaud, according to Rubin.

It’s a dream,” d’Arnaud said. “I loved how he hit and I loved how the pitchers loved throwing to him. So I tried to transform that into my game when I was a little kid.”

D’Arnaud has only played in 31 MLB games; all of them during the 2013 regular season. In those 31 games, he smacked one home run, drove in five runs and hit for a .202 batting average.

He is projected to be the Mets’ Opening Day catcher, according to Rubin. Piazza told Rubin what he plans on discussing with d’Arnaud.

No. 1 is just for him to stay healthy — to take care of himself and be consistent, stay off the roller coaster, which the game can be sometimes,” Piazza said. “You don’t have to always go out there and get the big hit. You can go out and catch a good ballgame or block a pitch with the tying or winning run on third — understanding behind the plate there’s a lot you can do…For me, obviously, I was more of an offensive-oriented catcher. But as a catcher you still can contribute in many ways to get the confidence of the pitching staff.”

This would allow d’Arnaud to focus more on being an all-around catcher instead of solely focusing on trying to duplicate Piazza’s offensive production. Piazza’s advice could help d’Arnaud accelerate his development.

Piazza’s arrival in Port St. Lucie does not mean that he wants to be a full-time coach, according to Rubin.

I’ve got a 7-month-old kid. I just left him last night,” Piazza said. “He’s a lot of fun. But this is fun for me. And I’m blessed to have these opportunities to do it on a part-time basis. I don’t know what the future holds. I’m just enjoying the day.”

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