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Mike Piazza’s induction brings Amazin’ atmosphere to Cooperstown

Mike Piazza watches the path of his home

Mike Piazza watches the path of his home run that broke the record for home runs by a catcher as the Mets played the Giants on May 5, 2004. It was Piazza's 352nd home run. Credit: NEWSDAY / Kathy Kmonicek

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Finally. That word, and the feeling it conveys, filled a little upstate town that was awash in blue and orange Friday. On a bright afternoon on Main Street near the Baseball Hall of Fame, where Mike Piazza will be enshrined Sunday, the Mets finally were having their day in the sun.

Piazza will be the first position player to go into the Hall as a Met, and only the second Met overall, following Tom Seaver in 1992. Fans said it is about time. For a young generation, it also will be completely new and utterly “amazing,” as Scott Eisner put it.

Eisner, a Queens native who lives in Albany, was admiring a huge photo of Piazza in a Mets uniform, against a backdrop of a sea of blue-clad fans at Shea Stadium. Eisner had on his well-worn Piazza No. 31 shirt and said he will drive more than an hour each way for three days in a row just to be part of this.

“I’ve been waiting for this my entire life,” he said. “I’m 24 now so when Piazza came over, I was 6. That’s when I was just getting into baseball. Piazza is the face of the franchise.”

Among the memorabilia in a display case was the bat with which Piazza hit the homer that broke Carlton Fisk’s record for most home runs by a catcher. Who should wander by but Fisk, with his grandson. The Hall of Famer said of Piazza, “He went for a long time and he had some great numbers, so obviously he deserves to be here.”

Out on the street, where former major-leaguers always gather to sign autographs this time of year, players from special teams in Mets history felt extra pride in their alma mater. Art Shamsky of the 1969 Mets said, “I’ve been up here a number of times for induction weekend and as a former Met, I didn’t see a lot of Met jerseys, people wearing the caps and everything. This weekend is different and I think it’s great.”

Jesse Orosco, of the 1986 Mets, who briefly played with Piazza in spring training of 2000, said, “I think it’s great. The more the better. I wish I could join him. He was one of the greatest hitting catchers baseball has ever seen. Everything that’s coming to him is deserved.”

Lenny Dykstra, sitting behind a pile of his best-selling autobiography, said, “He definitely had the numbers. I’m really happy for him.”

Frank Thomas, 87, of the beloved 1962 Mets, said Piazza “had a fabulous career,” in a worthy setting. “New York always was a National League town,” he said. “When Brooklyn and the Giants left, fans were just waiting. They’re great fans.”

They’re ready to embrace this weekend. Port Jefferson native Kevin Cohen brought his wife and their three young children from their home in Chicago. “It’s pretty awesome,” said the man wearing a David Wright jersey. “We’ve had so few who have had great offensive careers. The ones that did were short-lived like [Darryl] Strawberry. I’m just glad he got in with a Mets hat, not a Dodgers hat.”

Kassie Tibbetts, 16, of Farmingville said, “It’s like my childhood is finally being recognized.” She added that she gets chills watching the video of Piazza’s post-9/11 home run at Shea Stadium. “I watched it last night.”

Audrey Proto of Danbury, Connecticut, was there with her friend Michael Daniels of North Bellmore. “I think it’s the last time in my lifetime this is going to happen,” she said. “That’s why we’re here.”

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