Mike Piazza, the newest inductee of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, gave a shout-out to Pope Benedict XVI and his mother Veronica.
“She gave me the gift of my Catholic faith, which has had a profound impact on my career and has given me patience, compassion and hope,” Piazza said in his induction speech Sunday.
“Pope Benedict XVI said, ‘One who has hope, lives differently.’ Mom, you raised five boys, and you were always there for me.”
Piazza, 47, played catcher for the New York Mets and other teams. He hit 427 home runs in his professional career. He began his professional baseball career with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1992 and played with the Mets from 1998-2005. He was a 12-time All Star player and a 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner. He retired in 2007.
He is only the second Hall of Fame player to be inducted as a Met.
Piazza had attended 7:30 Mass at Cooperstown’s Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, the New York Post’s sports columnist Kevin Kiernan reported.
Afterward, he asked for a special blessing from the priest, Father John Rosson.
“Yes, it was quite humbling,” Fr. Rosson said on the church website. “Mike was very humble…I was tongue tied when he asked for a blessing and I did not realize that I had a live ‘mike’ on.”
The baseball star signed autographs and took pictures with parishioners. The church is only a 10-minute walk from the hall of fame.
About 50,000 people attended the induction ceremony, including many of Piazza’s past teammates and 48 returning Hall of Famers. Piazza was inducted into the hall of fame alongside Ken Griffey, Jr., a past star for the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners.
Piazza also thanked his father, Vince, who was present at the ceremony.
“My father’s faith in me, often greater than my own, is the single most important factor of me being inducted into this Hall of Fame. Thank you, Dad.”
Piazza noted that his father had had a major stroke several years before.
“We made it, Dad. The race is over. Now it’s time to smell the roses,” he said.
The Mets star also thanked the team’s fans.
“How can I put into words my love and appreciation for New York Mets fans. Looking back into this crowd of blue and orange brings me back to the greatest time of my life,” he said. “The thing I miss most is making you cheer.”