Mike Piazza talks about God and Baseball
Article from Seattle Times July 24, 2007
After starting his career as the 1,390th player chosen in baseball’s 1988 amateur draft, Mike Piazza has gone on to become one of the top major-league catchers of all time.
Piazza won the 1993 Rookie of the Year Award, has been chosen for a dozen All-Star games and holds the record for most home runs by a catcher.
Piazza is also a devoted Catholic and appears in the documentary “Champions of Faith,” which profiles Christian baseball players. Currently playing for the Oakland Athletics, Piazza spoke about forgiving his opponents, praying (or not) for home runs, and passing judgment on baseball’s steroids scandal.
Q: What role does faith play in your career — and your life?
A: I truly believe my whole professional career has been a blessing from God. And it’s been a great gift. I know I worked hard, and you have to apply yourself, but I still feel that you have to have a lot of blessings from above. And anybody who plays this game, you have to be very spiritual, because it’s very frustrating at times.
I grew up Roman Catholic. And my mom was very instrumental in guiding me and forming a spiritual foundation for myself. And so it’s just something I’ve always enjoyed practicing. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed being a part of, and something I’m proud of.
Q: Why do you say that you have to be spiritual to play the game?
A: Because it’s a game based on failure. (In) baseball, if you fail seven out of 10 times, you’re a success. As a player, you have to believe. I have to believe every day that when I get in that batter’s box, good things are going to happen. And that’s the way I think we have to be in life, to realize that we are going to go through a tremendous amount of test and adversity and frustration.
Q: As a person of faith, what is your perspective on the steroid scandal in baseball?
A: There is a lot of swirling and a lot of innuendo, a lot of rumor, a lot of hearsay…. Major League Baseball has sort of admitted and sort of acknowledged that there could have been abuse by some players in the past. It’s kind of like going back and reinvestigating the Kennedy assassination. It’s impossible to really put a finger on where it derailed and where it went wrong.
Q: Do you find it hard to practice your faith during the season, especially on the road?
A: It’s easy for me not to go to Mass on the road. But I’ve made a fundamental decision. I’m going to be dedicated. I’m going to make the time. I’m going to get up, if that means getting up at seven on a Sunday morning before a day game and do it, I’m going to do it. And we’re fortunate now. The Archdiocese of Oakland has sanctioned Mass at the stadium. So it makes it convenient for us.
Q: There’s debate about whether it’s appropriate to pray for little things in life, like finding a parking space. Do you pray for victory in games, or for home runs?
A: No, I really don’t. My personal opinion is to keep it broader, to get up in the morning and pray for the Lord’s blessings. Pray for the Lord to help me do my best at my job. To pray for health. Pray for guidance. Pray for all these things. And then all the little things kind of slide in.
Q: Do you have a favorite prayer?
A: I love the rosary, and I say the Hail Mary a lot. The devotion, especially my devotion to the Holy Mother, is something that’s helped me a lot. And I love praying the rosary, so I say my Hail Marys all the time.
Q: Could you say a little more about what Mary means to you?
A: The fact that she was just so devoted and so special, that God chose her to bear his son. It’s, like, wow. It’s really a special thing. I love reading about her, and reading about some of the apparitions, or reported apparitions, throughout history. I wish I had so much grace that I would be privileged to see it.
Q: Do you have a favorite Bible passage?
A: One of my favorite passages is the story about the people going to the wedding, and they sat in a high place of honor. And they were told to go down to a lower place. And then the people that sat in a lower place, then they were told to go to a higher place. And it says he who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
Q: In a profession like yours, which is based on intense competition, do you ever feel a need to forgive the other team?
A: As far as forgiveness, it does get intense. And there are people sometimes that try to hurt you or physically try to do things to you which aren’t really sportsmanlike. Forgiving someone is very difficult at times because you take things very personally, and you realize that it’s your career. And if someone tries to go out of their way to harm you, or make you look bad in a job, it’s very difficult to forgive them.
But it’s what “The Book” says. You pray for your enemies and you forgive your enemies — it ticks them off that much more.
Q: Is there any pressure among major leaguers not to express one’s faith?
A: Not so much in athletics. But, in society today, I think that there is an assault on faith. I think that there is an assault on people who are proud of their faith. And secular progressive people are a little bit more empowered as well. It’s easy to pick on Christians, so to speak, in this day and age.