Catcher If He Can
Piazza had never played the position of catcher, so in order to learn the position, he requested to be sent to Campos Las Palmas, which is the training camp for Latino recruits, in the Dominican Republic. The conditions at the training camp were not ideal, as Piazza was out of his element. He did not speak the language, and endured squalor living conditions. As usual, Piazza was willing to do anything to improve his game. He put up with a lot of razzing by teammates due to his association with Lasorda. Bob Nightengale with the Sporting News stated, "He still was considered Tommy's boy and clearly paid the price." Everything he battled was made worthwhile when he was catching full time for the Class A Bakersfield team, and was called up to play with the Dodgers for a game against the Chicago Cubs on September 1, 1992. He did not take this opportunity lightly, showing everyone what he had to offer. The next year with the Dodgers he hit thirty-five home runs, which was the most any rookie catcher had ever hit, influencing the decision to name him National League Rookie of the Year in 1993. It also resulted in a contract with the Dodgers for three years. The contract was for $4.2 million, which was a far cry from his original signing bonus of $15,000. He had finally made it in the big leagues. It was a proud moment, not only for him, but for his father, whose dream had come true. Piazza realized what a gift he had been given for the opportunity to play with the Dodgers and expressed, "I'll never take this game for granted, never. I have worked too hard to get here," when speaking with Bob Nightengale for the Sporting News. He went on to talk about his celebrity, saying, "I'm only known because of my success on the ballfield. Nobody knew who I was three years ago." He wanted to make it quite clear that although a favor was called in for him to have a chance, he worked for everything he had achieved.
In 1998 everything Piazza knew was about to change. He thought he would be playing for the Dodgers for the rest of his career. Little did he know that in the span of two weeks he would be traded twice. He was first traded to the Florida Marlins, then to the New York Mets. It is with the Mets that he remains, but it wasn't without a lot of hard work proving himself. In the Palm Beach Post Julius Whigham wrote, "He struggled to live up to high expectations in New York early on and heard about it." Piazza stated in the article, "I chose to embrace it and go with it and be accountable and not make excuses." John Franco, a pitcher for the Dodgers, believed he just had to acclimate to the New York state of mind. He said, "Once he got used to being around, the rest is history." Once Piazza settled in he not only was accepted into the Mets fan base, he was embraced. In The Record Pete Caldera explained that the "Mets can't bear to think of life without him."