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Piazza to join Mets HOF in September

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NEW YORK (AP) - Mike Piazza understands what it's like to be a New York Mets fan. That's why his selection for the team's Hall of Fame means so much to him

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``Sometimes the tough times really define you when you're going through the good times,'' he said Sunday. ``When you have that sort of roller-coaster history and some adversity - well, a little bit more than some.''

Almost always competing with the Yankees for attention, the Mets entered their 52nd season with just two World Series titles, in 1969 and 1986. The high-spending Bronx Bombers have 27 in a century-plus of play.

The Yankees represent tradition. The Mets, a National League replacement after the Dodgers and Giants left for California, will always be the upstarts. With fewer seats, lower revenue and a less-glamorous roster than their Bronx rival, the Mets usually feel like underdogs.

That's why Piazza appreciates the fervor of the fans who cheered him at Shea Stadium and now hope for a revival after 4 1/2 subpar seasons in Citi Field.

When the Mets succeed, the re-energized supporters surge with enthusiasm. Piazza experienced that firsthand when he helped the club reach the 2000 World Series - only to lose to the Yankees.

``It's a character thing. I mean, they ride that high with you, and even though it could be very tough struggling in this city, it's what defines this organization,'' he said. ``It's a different synergy I feel from other teams.''

While the Mets said he will be inducted into their Hall on Sept. 29 during Fan Appreciation Day at Citi Field, Piazza fell short in his first try for baseball's Hall of Fame. The burly catcher received 329 of 569 votes when totals were announced in January, falling 98 shy of the necessary 75 percent.

``I got a tremendous amount of support. As a player and a person, you just have to respect processes and understand that this is the way it's always been done,'' he said. ``There's been some great players in history that have had to wait their turn. I'm very much proud of my career. I'll put my body of work up against anybody.''

Piazza realizes some suspect he used performance-enhancing drugs, even though he never tested positive and no evidence has been produced connecting him with PEDs. It's a product of the era he played in.

``There's nothing you can do about that,'' he said. ``You just tell your story and live your life and go on.''

He did exactly that this year in his memoir, ``Long Shot.'' Piazza said he never took steroids but did admit to using just about everything else, including androstenedione, amphetamines, Creatine, ephedra and a type of asthma medicine that made him more alert and focused.

Piazza was a 62nd-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988, selected only because manager Tommy Lasorda is his godfather. He hit 220 of 427 career homers for the Mets, his team from 1998-05, and made seven of his 12 All-Star appearances with New York.

The former slugger homered to left Sunday in the celebrity softball game ahead of Tuesday night's All-Star game, easily clearing a fence ranging from 241 feet in center to 227 feet down the foul lines.

Piazza, born in Norristown, Pa., remembered back to the 1996 All-Star game when he was voted MVP of the NL's 6-0 win at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium. Piazza hit a 445-foot home run into the upper deck in the second inning off Charles Nagy, then added an RBI double against Chuck Finley in the third.

All in the ballpark where he watched games as a kid.

``Playing in front of where I grew up and winning the MVP there was unbelievable,'' he said. ``It's a great memory for me.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2015
The Associated Press
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