That Magic Moment: On This Date in Mets History

The date was May 7, 2000. The Florida Marlins behind Ryan Dempster's 1-hit shutout beat the New York Mets 3-0. Catcher Mike Piazza's double was the only hit the Mets could muster. However, as rare as that one hit may have been for the Mets that day, Piazza making to the major leagues is nothing short of magical. His story gives every kid wanting to make it to the big leagues a reason to dream - even when hope seems the dimmest.

In the 1988 baseball amateur draft Mike Piazza was chosen in the 62nd round - the 1,390th player chosen. Take a moment and read that last sentence again. There were 1,389 players chosen before Piazza. And when he was chosen, it was as a personal favor to his godparent, Tommy Lasorda, the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Consider this: The amateur draft today is limited to 50 rounds plus "compensation picks" after the first round for off-season signing of major league free agents. Players chosen in the 20th round and beyond go on to become, with all due respect to Willie Nelson, lawyers, doctors, and such. They don't become major league baseball players.

When I was growing up, I read an elementary primer titled, "The Little Engine That Could." The story itself may be elementary, but its moral is big league.

"I think I can, I think I can" is something that Mike Piazza must have said to himself over and over while toiling away in the minor leagues. In four short years, Piazza went from being drafted in the 62nd round of the amateur draft to the major league baseball level. Yes, Mike Piazza and that little engine have a lot in common.

After being drafted, Mike Piazza spent the winter in the Dominican Republic where the Los Angeles Dodgers had just opened baseball academy. There, Piazza learned how to catch. In 293 minor league games at the Class A and Double A level, Piazza hit .279 and rapped 50 home runs. In 1992 he moved to the Triple A level in Albuquerque, NM where he had a 25 game hitting streak, hit .341, smashed 16 homeruns, and drove in 69 RBI. Piazza was named the Dodgers' Minor League Player of the Year and a Pacific League All-Star. In September 1992, four years after being drafted, the Dodgers called up Mike Piazza to the major league level.

The New York Mets acquired Mike Piazza from the Florida Marlins on May 22, 1998 in exchange for minor league outfielder Preston Wilson, minor league left-handed pitcher Ed Yarnell, and minor league left-handed pitcher Geoff Getz. Although the Mets were challenged with the re-signing of Piazza with significant investment, his acquisition was nothing short of a steal.

In a little less than 10 full seasons (roughly 1,400 games) at the major league level, Mike Piazza has amassed over 1,600 hits and over 1,000 RBI. And, he is closing in on the major league record for homes runs from the catcher's position, trailing only Carlton Fisk's 351. These are certainly not the stats reflective of someone selected in the 62nd round of any draft.

If you have children wanting to play catcher for the New York Mets or another position with maybe another major league baseball team, tell them Mike Piazza's story of perseverance. Tell them to not back off those dreams. Tell them to not get discouraged if challenges arise and people say no - they will. Tell them to believe in themselves and never to give up on what burns in their hearts.

Just remember the story of the ‘Little Engine That Could' as she merrily went on her way singing to herself and what Mike Piazza might have been saying to himself upon arriving at the major league baseball level:

"I thought I could! I thought I could!

John C. Sinclair writes a New York Mets historical column every Wednesday on NYMFansOnly.com


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