Mike Piazza is not only the best Italian American baseball player of the 21st century as evidenced by his 10 Silver Slugger Awards and place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, but has clearly demonstrated a commitment to his heritage on and off the field.
From representing the Italian National Baseball team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic as a player to serving as its hitting coach in 2009 and 2013, the 12-time MLB All-Star is also currently the club’s manager on account of his roots in Sciacca, Sicily. In 2023, he helped Italy advance to the quarterfinals of the World Baseball Classic for only the second time in history, which represents the team’s best result since 2013.
“I’ve been playing for Italy since 2006, I was in the first Classic,” Piazza said during an episode of MLB’s Behind the Flag. “My father was so proud to be Italian, so when I had the opportunity, I said, ‘Absolutely. We want to bring you guys here to see why you’re fighting, to reconnect with your Italian blood and realize it’s beautiful. There’s a lot of passion here.'”
Outside of the diamond, Piazza has been an active supporter of the Italian American community through his work with organizations such as the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame. NIAF in particular had nothing but kind words for Piazza upon his induction into the MLB Hall of Fame, releasing an official statement that said:
“Mike has been a longtime supporter and great friend to NIAF. Over the last decade, he has attended the Foundation’s Anniversary Awards Galas in the nation’s capital, served as the 2012 Master of Ceremonies at our 37th Anniversary Gala, and spoke at conferences and seminars for young Italian Americans during Gala weekends. In 2014, Mike was chosen to light the Empire State Building in Red, White and Green to celebrate NIAF’s mission and educational programs across the country.”NIAF Official Statement: Mike Piazza, New York Mets Great and 12-Time MLB All-Star Elected to The National Baseball Hall of Fame
The former NL Rookie of the Year also recently attended the Italian American Baseball Foundation’s Cigar Night in Queens, New York, where he gave a passionate speech about what new immigrants can learn from Italian Americans.
This sentiment was echoed during an interview in 2002 with the Associated Press while on a trip in Italy when he stated:
“Being Italian-American in New York, I am very proud of my heritage. It’s something I have great pride in and I’m a little emotional, knowing how proud my father and grandfather would be if they could see me here.”
Whether he is representing Italy on the global stage or speaking to the Italian American experience right here in the USA, Italian Americans are privileged to have such a proud and outspoken member of the community giving back at this scale.