Mike Piazza Interview: Day Three WBC

Italy dropped its second straight game on Thursday with Mike Piazza going 0-for-4, dropping to 1-for-11 in three games. Piazza fielded questions on the first round of the tournament and his appreciation for the WBC.

Your thoughts on the tournament?

Mike Piazza: Obviously I've been saying the whole week, everyone knows, at least, what my thoughts are. Again, we played arguably one of the probably best assembled teams in history, and played them pretty tough. And made them earn it. Made some good pitches on guys, pitchers today were real gutsy. Everyone played their hearts out. What can I say, this was an honor for me.

And again, this is something very special. We didn't make this decision lightly, this was something very special for us to play for the country of our fathers and mothers and forefathers and foremothers and again, that's something we really take seriously. We believe baseball can continue to grow in Italy.

Hopefully when we're still around this program will take off and one day beat the likes of Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and the United States. So that's our dream and hopefully we planted a seed and it can continue to grow, and knowing it's not going to be an overnight process.

But I'm very proud to be here and I would like to thank Major League Baseball for putting on this event and I think everyone knows the response has just been overwhelming and positive.

What is your impression of the Dominican team now that you've seen them play? They're probably the team to beat in this tournament.

Mike Piazza: Well, yeah, they're a very, very, talented ballclub. Solid lineup. They have a lot of speed. And they have power, too. But as you saw with the United States, any team can get beat. In order to beat this team, you really have to be on top of your game. You can't give any runs away. You can't give outs away. They have some great hitters, but anybody can have a good day. It's not always the best team that wins, it's the team that plays the best, as you saw with Canada against the United States.

So I think they got a talented team, they're obviously a strong favorite from here on out, but again, as they learned a little bit today, that teams can make a name for themselves if they beat them. So that's something they're going to have to obviously concentrate on.

How disappointing do you think it would be if the American team didn't advance and obviously given your relationships with many of the players on that team?

Mike Piazza: I think that again it's tough for us to comment on the American team because we haven't been in their camp and seen the energy there or whatever. But from our standpoint it shows that the teams, the Dominican, Venezuela, Canada, obviously, Mexico, they even played them tough. I mean, they want to play to win and they're serious about this event. There's a lot of pride on this event. And I'm not implying that the United States team wasn't serious, I know they're playing hard. But it just shows that teams want to play. That Dominican team out there today played with a lot of emotion.

I've seen some great teams lose. It's not the team, the best team, it's the team that plays the best. Period. The team that gets good pitching, doesn't give away outs, does the little things. And in baseball, more than any other sport, David can slay Goliath, period.

In retrospect are you glad that you participated here with Italy, and in a program that's obviously trying to build itself as opposed to maybe being on the U. S. Team, which still has a good shot or is still considered one of the favorites to get to the finals? I mean picking the smaller fish than the bigger fish?

Mike Piazza: "Glad" would be an understatement. I mean, just pride and for me the fact that the way that the native Italians embraced Frank, myself and Matty and all the Italian-American players, because, again, we, you know, from the start we didn't want this to be a rubber stamp thing. As Matty will tell you they had to go back and research family trees and lineage to get some sort of legitimacy to this. So all of our parents have been traced back to roots in Italy. The fact that the Italians have embraced us so much is something for me that gives me a lot of pride and a lot of joy and we're very emotional. Anybody who is Italian, Italian-American, you know, we're very emotional. We have a lot of love. We love family and the fact that we have been embraced like a family makes us -- I mean, we all talked right now. We're going to stay in touch with this program and be on call anytime they need us to help further this program.

And like I said, our dream one day is to have this team be a champion. A champion in the world class that this tournament is.

We know you've enjoyed trips back to Italy, have you thought at all about when your playing career does come to an end, going over there and getting involved in teaching the sport over there to kids or younger players?

Mike Piazza: Well, I've said on record before I'll be willing to sacrifice to go to Italy on vacation and eat al dente pasta and truffles and make cappuccino. I'll sacrifice that. I will go through that to further the Italian baseball program. As I'm sure we all will.

So, yeah, we made friendships here. We have connected with these beautiful Italian players and coaches. They came in and they're very proud, and we're proud to have played for them. So again, we are all going to go over there and do whatever we can. As I said, it's the first step. Baseball has a little bit of a foothold there, but now we want to elevate that and make it more of a sport business than just a casual sport over there. We want it to be serious. But it's not going to be an easy process, it's always going to take time.

In retrospect did you feel like timing-wise you were ready for this tournament? How did you feel about the play the last few days?

Mike Piazza: Well, again, I have no excuses. I wish I would have played better. But last night, we faced Freddy Garcia in mid-season form and Silva, and today, obviously, Odalis. I felt like I took a couple better swings later in the game, but obviously the sand ran out of time on us.

But as I've said, and I told the Italian guys, and Frankie knows this, I mean, you want to play the best. I'm happy that they threw their best guns at us. I'm happy that they threw Freddy last night and all their talent, Venezuela and Dominican pitchers today as well. So that's what I've always loved to do in my whole career. If you want to face the best, if you don't want to face the best in the game, then you shouldn't be playing the game. So as Frankie swung the bat very well today, obviously he was ready and he was on time, and hopefully we'll be ready for the season as well.

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