Piazza clearly came from a close-knit family (he had four brothers) but you get the distinct impression that his father was overbearing. Piazza’s dad saw his ability early on and pushed him hard to become the best hitter he could be. Piazza was consistently working on his hitting in make-shift batting cages at his family’s house. It became an obsession that he devoured, but you get the impression he didn’t have much choice.
His upbringing had his perks as well. Growing up near Philadelphia, Piazza went to several Phillies games and, because of his dad’s friendship with Lasorda, was the visiting batboy whenever the Dodgers came to town. One time Ted Williams even came to his house to observe his hitting and left impressed.
Piazza excelled at the junior level, but was not originally drafted out of high school. He ended up at the University of Miami for a year and then Miami-Dade North Community College. When he was finally taken with the token pick in the 62nd round he wasn’t considered much of a prospect. It meant he had to work that much harder to make it to the majors.
The humility of rejection made Piazza tougher and more determined to succeed. He developed a surly side that never really disappeared. The end result was huge success on the diamond but an awkward relationship with the fans and media.
When he first appeared on the scene in Los Angeles it seemed like he would be a Dodger for life. But he felt disrespected by the Dodgers’ front office and ended up being traded just before he became a free agent. Piazza eventually ended up with the Mets where he spent the majority of his career. He continued to hit for power and average, but also a catcher you could steal bases on.