PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The first time he met Mike Piazza, Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud said he was transformed into a “giddy” child. That was two years ago, when Piazza did a stint as a guest instructor in camp.
Now, with Piazza expected to arrive for another guest instruction stint Sunday, d’Arnaud again is looking forward to seeing a childhood idol.
“I tried to emulate his every move,” d’Arnaud said. “I worked with him a couple of years ago and I felt like I was floating on cloud nine. Now here he is again. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Piazza will enter the Hall of Fame this summer as a member of the Mets, but it was during his earliest years with the Dodgers that Piazza caught the eye of d’Arnaud, a native of Southern California.
D’Arnaud looks forward to personally congratulating Piazza for his Hall of Fame nod.
“I’m real happy,” d’Arnaud said. “I was jumping like a little 5-year-old when he got announced. I’m very happy for him and I can’t wait to congratulate him.”
Even as a kid, d’Arnaud believed that Piazza belonged in Cooperstown. He cited Piazza’s breakout season with the Dodgers in 1993, when he hit 35 homers on the way to winning Rookie of the Year honors.
“He just kept doing it over and over,” d’Arnaud said. “I just thought he was always a Hall of Fame player.”
Piazza is one of three guest instructors expected to drop in at some point during camp. John Franco and Mookie Wilson are the others.
The Mets will play an intrasquad game on Tuesday in preparation for their Grapefruit League opener on Thursday against the Nationals in Viera, Florida . . . Righthander Rafael Montero will start the opener, with the Mets holding out the members of their regular rotation until about a week into exhibition games.