Mike Piazza Interview

San Diego Padres catcher Mike Piazza is competing for Italy in the WBC and his team led off with a 10-0 thumping of Australia. Piazza went 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the win.

Mike, what made you want to do this and what's this experience been like for you so far in practice and in the game?

Mike Piazza: Well, the experience so far has been just awesome. We're having a lot of fun. We have come together very quickly as a team. It's a joy working with the native Italians, because they're very excited. They're very eager to learn.

Again, we have, I think we have just, we're really enjoying this whole thing. As far as my decision to play for Italy. Again, I said before, I think that the fact that they were enthusiastic and supportive of me playing for them was the key. Obviously if I didn't feel like that they wanted me to do it, it would be a little different. But since they were excited about it and my personal reason was obviously my grandfather came from Italy, obviously this is all, we all have our personal reasons. We want to grow the game in Italy. We want to grow the game internationally and obviously in Italy, where there is a foothold there, but it's still, it can grow, it could be elevated.

And participation by the Italian American players, that's one of our motivations.

And obviously to come here and win. That's what we want to do as well.

Mike, next stop Venezuela. How do you think that game is going to be?

Mike Piazza: It's going to be difficult. They're a great ballclub. They have a lot of major league experience. They have some amazing hitters on that team. So at this point for us the challenge gets more difficult, and tonight as we said was a good win and we're going to enjoy this tonight, but we know tomorrow is going to be tough. I personally, I don't think we really don't want to change our approach. We want to make good pitches, catch the ball, we can't afford to give them any outs. We have to -- we really can't afford any mistakes. If we're able to do what we did offensively tonight, which was a very balanced game offensively, we had a little hit-and-run, we had some power tonight. Guys got on base. Guys wanted to handle the bat offensively and even more so against a team like Venezuela, but we're going to have to do that. It's going to be difficult, but we're up for the challenge. And we're excited.

We want to compete with them but, yeah, it's going to be a lot of work.

Mike, could you just elaborate for some of us who don't know the story of your grandfather coming over here from Italy.

Mike Piazza: My grandfather's name was Rosario Piazza, and he came from a small town in Sicily called Shaka. It's on the southwest coast of Sicily. It's about an hour south of Palermo. And my grandmother is from Naples. And they actually met coming over here to the United States.

And he was a wonderful man. He was a welder and obviously I can't tell you, Matty and I have been talking about how wonderful it is to kind of reconnect with our ancestry, with our roots over there, and the fact that the Italian players and staff have been so gracious to us and have welcomed us and made us feel comfortable, because again, we wanted this thing to be, this was an important event for us and we think we are building a bridge here for the future. And I think that not only the Italian-American guys who are playing in the big leagues, we want to elevate the national Italians, Italians from Italy that have played in Italy, to get to the big leagues and prove and let them believe and give them the confidence that they can compete eventually at the big league level.

And that would inspire the, a grass roots movement in Italy, with the children, and inspire them to play baseball and believe that they can come to the United States and make a great living. And so obviously that's what we're very excited about.

Can you talk about Jason's performance tonight to start us off and then questions for Jason that you might have.

Mike Piazza: Yeah, great stuff tonight. Pitched ahead, great curveball. Moved the ball around. Came in off the plate. Just great performance. Don't change a thing.

Some of you know him better than others, first-time pitching coach, I just want to find out what your thoughts are on what he brings to this team technically and otherwise.

Mike Piazza: Johnny's been very inspiring and he keeps everyone lose. And he's having a lot of fun, but he's very serious when he's out there coaching. I mean, he has a plan and has a lot of experience because nobody got more out of less than Johnny. So he has to know how to pitch. He'll be the first to tell you. He didn't have overwhelming stuff. So he knew how to pitch. He knew how to move the ball around and he had a lot of guts and he's a lot of fun to be around.

So again, he's made a commitment and the energy here is just a lot of fun. And I feel like whatever we do here on out, obviously we want to win, but everything from here on out is a bonus because it's been an overwhelming success so far.

With that said, we obviously still feel like we have a lot of work to do.

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