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Mike Piazza at spring training with Mets as instructor

Mike Piazza is in his third year on

Mike Piazza is in his third year on the Hall of Fame ballot. Credit: AP, 2003

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Mike Piazza walked out of the coaches' room in baseball pants and long sleeves, an orange Mets logo displayed prominently on his chest.

He will be a special guest instructor this week, and his goal will be to fit in.

So far, so good.

Piazza's first day in camp appeared timed to avoid a spectacle. With top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard pitching two hours away Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Piazza began his first stint as a guest instructor with little fanfare.

"I'm just enjoying today and it's fun to get back in uniform and be in the clubhouse," said Piazza, who seemed content to keep a low profile. "I feel like I have a lot to teach. Obviously, I felt like I got a lot out of my ability at the plate. If I can just talk to some young guys and maybe put a little bit of thought to help them advance their careers, it's very rewarding."

Catcher Travis d'Arnaud likened Piazza's presence to "a dream." He grew up in Southern California idolizing Piazza, who began his illustrious career as a catcher with the Dodgers. Piazza went on to play eight seasons with the Mets and hit 220 of his 427 career home runs with them.

"I loved how he hit, I loved how pitchers loved throwing to him," said d'Arnaud, 25, who will begin his first full season in the majors. "I tried to transfer that to my game when I was a little kid."

Now d'Arnaud will be able to take those lessons directly from his idol. "Everything looks right for him," Piazza said. "He just has to go out and perform."

Piazza has been focused on family life, so coaching full-time does not appear to be an option. "It's a lot of fun,'' he said, "and it's fun that they're good kids and you see they're very humble and they're excited to be here."

Acrimony once permeated Piazza's relationship with the Mets, for whom he established himself as perhaps the best-hitting catcher in baseball history. But in recent years, he has increasingly become a presence.

Last September, when Piazza was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame, chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon used the occasion to extend an invitation to spring training. Piazza jumped at the opportunity, though both he and the Mets kept the arrangement quiet.

"It feels great," Piazza said. "I'm really excited again. They invited me and it's just enjoy the week and try to blend in."

New York Sports