- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, meanwhile, declared Sunday "Mike Piazza Day."
Piazza wiped away tears after he was introduced to a near-capacity crowd. He got choked up at the podium in shallow center field while addressing his father and other family members seated nearby.
Piazza, 45, slugged 220 of his 427 career homers as a Met. That included the game-deciding homer on Sept. 21, 2001, at Shea Stadium against Steve Karsay, which lifted the Mets to a come-from-behind win against the Atlanta Braves in the first game back in New York after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Piazza summed up his Mets tenure Sunday by saying: "If you look at the big picture of life, you realize that sometimes there's just a destiny in things. And I truly feel it was my plan to be here, in one way, shape or form. It may not have been the most beautiful journey at the time, but it was meant to be."
As for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Piazza appeared on 57.8 percent of ballots last year, in his first year of eligibility -- close enough to be within striking distance of the 75 percent threshold required for election. He said he is not impatient, noting plenty of Hall of Famers took a handful of ballots to be selected.
"The Hall of Fame, I truly feel I got a lot of support," Piazza said. "It's a process. I'm very proud of my career. Obviously I put my body of work up against anybody, I've said before. But, you know what? I truly feel that the process is a beautiful thing as well. It is what it is.
"I mean, looking back, Yogi [Berra] had three ballots. And Joe DiMaggio three ballots.
"When you retire, you get retrospective. You think of things in the bigger picture. And so if I'm so blessed and honored to get to that point someday, I will enjoy it and be proud and wear the honor that is so important. Up until that point, I can only do like an artist -- here's my work, my canvas -- and it's out of my hands. The process, it's cool and amazing and very interesting and historic. I know throughout history there is always going to be debate. That's the best thing about baseball. That's the best thing about sports."
Addressing the steroid era in which he played, Piazza added: "I just feel it's an unfortunate consequence of that era. Not to get into a deep dissertation of fault. In a perfect world, if we could go back and do things again, I'm sure we would have done a lot of things different. With that said, that's just something I hate what happened to the game.
"But the positive is that you see how resilient the game is. You see at the end of the day it comes down to baseball. It is a game that has shown through its ups and downs and through its imperfection, it is a game that people really love. As I've said, I wish we could go back and do it differently. And I'm sure it would have been a different world.
"But I truly feel baseball doesn't get enough credit for the fact they are trying to really make a statement -- to understand there's no place for PEDs in baseball and sports in general."
Piazza has served as a World Baseball Classic coach for Team Italy. He does not rule out having a coaching role with a major league team someday, although not imminently.
"When I was playing, I said I wanted to be a bachelor in the big leagues for a few years, and it turned into 10 for some reason," Piazza said. "To segue that, my point is: I've been retired now, and I find myself playing golf and doing things. It is nice that you can pick your own schedule.
"I always loved the game. I loved the Classic. It was fun. I don't rule anything out. Obviously having smaller kids and starting my family later in life, maybe when my girls don't think I'm as cool and I have more time, I'll be like, 'OK, now I can do it.' But I definitely don't want to close any doors. I love the game. I feel like I'm a good teacher, because I learned from the great teachers that taught me. And I think it's a small way to give back. But we'll see. I never say never."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
1dInterview by Buster Olney
1dDanny Knobler, Special to ESPN.com