PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Still undergoing around-the-clock renovations to be ready for spring training to begin in a few weeks, the Mets dedicated a new street and address for their spring training home on Thursday in honor of Hall of Famer Mike Piazza.
Now known as Clover Park, the fifth name for the stadium and surrounding facility since it opened in 1988, the permanent address became 31 Piazza Drive, and the new access road bears a sign designating it Piazza Way in the team’s orange-and-blue pinstripe design.
Broadcaster Howie Rose, who has called Mets play-by-play since 1995, spoke about how Piazza “transformed the Mets” when he arrived in a trade in May 1998 after a brief stint with the Miami Marlins.
Piazza, a 10-time Silver Slugger award winner and 12-time All-Star, six of them during his eight seasons with the Mets, added a new dimension of power into the Mets lineup as he led the team in their run to the 2000 World Series, Rose said.
Piazza, the all-time leader in home runs by a catcher, was only the second Mets player whose number was retired.
Officials from St. Lucie County and the city of Port St. Lucie talked about the impact Piazza and the Met have had on the local economy.
Port St. Lucie Mayor Greg Orovec said the city’s population has quadrupled from the 50,000 residents it had when the Mets played their first spring training game at the stadium in March 1988.
After running through a list of people to thank, Piazza elicited laughter from the crowd, its ranks as swelled by a few dozen Mets fantasy camp participants and coaches, when he said the county sheriff promised, “I’d never get a ticket on my drive.”
The 51-year-old Piazza turned somber and teared up when he mentioned his father, Vince, “the inspiration for my career” who was too ill to attend the ceremony, and a connection he discovered the previous night while researching the saint from the historic Sicilian city of Syracuse for which the Florida city is named, and his family’s Sicilian ancestry.
Piazza said he enjoys his role as an ambassador for the Mets and Major League Baseball, and he’s looking forward to his first taste of managing. He will manage Italy’s team in the 2020 European Baseball Championship and the 2021 World Baseball Classic. He was the team’s hitting coach for the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classic tournaments, and played for Italy in 2006.