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CYO Golf Classic Honors Mike Piazza

Mike Piazza
Mike Piazza poses with atheltes from Our Lady of the Snows parish, from left, Dylan Allen, third grade; Gregory Roslonowski, fifth grade; Brianna Allen, seventh grade; and Hannah Pineda, sixth grade. 

When we hear the name “Mike Piazza,” many of us automatically think of the New York Mets baseball player who was the greatest hitting catcher of all-time.

However, in addition to his accolades on the field, Piazza is a devout Catholic that found solace in prayer throughout his career.

Piazza was the honoree of the second annual Brooklyn/Queens CYO Golf Classic, held June 23 at North Hills Country Club, Manhasset. His award celebrated his love, affection, service and dedication toward the youth of the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Not only did Piazza fly in from Florida for the event, but he also graciously greeted fans – posing for pictures, signing autographs and reminiscing about his playing days.

“We all know Mike Piazza as a great player and a great sportsman, but he’s also a great Christian,” said Deacon Joe Catanello, diocesan director of CYO.

Despite a rainy day of golf, the number of attendees rose for the evening festivities, which included a banquet, raffles, speeches and an auction of Piazza-signed memorabilia.

“Sports can be a wonderful guide along the path to God,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “It teaches them sportsmanship; it teaches them fair play; it teaches them effort and sacrifice. We’re happy that the CYO program is flourishing in our diocese by reestablishing the religious aspect.”

Young athletes from Our Lady of the Snows parish, North Floral Park, represented CYO and were excited to meet Piazza.

“They came here because they knew what this outing was about, but they also wanted to see ‘Big Mike,’” said Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, Vicar of Development.

Two of the young athletes spoke and formally thanked Piazza for serving as a Christian role model.
“That came from their little hearts,” said Deacon Catanello. “They wrote that themselves. This is what happens when kids are influenced. It is worth something. The little bit you’re giving pays in dividends.”

Deacon Catanello’s brother, retired Auxiliary Bishop  Ignatius “Iggy” Catanello, befriended Piazza after being asked to say Mass at Shea Stadium 10 years ago. He stated that Piazza is “one of the most Christian gentlemen he’s ever met.”

What I Do, Not What I Am

Bishop Catanello recalled a moving conversation with Piazza, who told him: “Baseball is what I do, and I do it because God has given me the gift to do it. But it’s not what I am. There’s more to me than that. The most important thing in my life is my faith, my family and my friends.”

Mike Piazza Award
Future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza accepts CYO Golf Clasic Award. From left are Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Piazza, retired Auxiliary Bishop Ignatius Catanello, and Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello.

During his talk, Piazza noted that the little things in life are where God is, but that people are so focused elsewhere that they miss those signs. He added that youth organizations such as CYO truly guide the spiritual development of children.

He said he found himself praying often during his career, but not simply to just hit home runs every at-bat.

“I prayed to God to clear my mind and allow me to execute and do the best that I can,” said Piazza. “If I got a hit or didn’t get a hit, it really was irrelevant to me.  Success and failure is not necessarily measured in wins and losses or numbers.”

In the early stages of his career, Piazza claims that he was a selfish ballplayer but in a way that made him so good. However, he realized that God had blessed him with his abilities and felt compelled to give back through his faith.

“Once we get to a certain point in our lives, we need to internalize our success and really gives thanks for why we are successful,” said Piazza. “A lot of those things are a spiritual gift.”

In keeping with the idea of spiritual gifts, Piazza believes his strong faith has helped him inspire others to push past certain limitations to discover their true peace.

“Faith is a gift,” said Piazza. “We need to get back to roots and understand the path to true peace. Ultimately if you look inside your own heart, you’ll find peace.”

One of the most memorable moments in which Piazza incorporated his faith into his career occurred on Sept. 21, 2001 – the first Mets home game after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I remember specifically on the first base line when I first heard the bagpipes and I started to cry, I was saying to myself, ‘Please God, let me execute and do my job,’” said Piazza. “It was very tough to hold it together emotionally at that time.”

However, Piazza was able to stay focused through prayer and delivered a two-run, go-ahead home run that he felt played an integral role in healing the city’s wounds after the tragedy.

“I truly believe that was divine intervention,” said Piazza. “That was God, or at least the Holy Spirit, working through me to calm me down, let me execute and do my job.”

By looking to Piazza as the epitome, CYO continues to emphasize sports as a vehicle of evangelization. The Golf Classic was just one example in a long list of functions to benefit the athletic and spiritual needs of the youth of the diocese.

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One thought on “CYO Golf Classic Honors Mike Piazza

  1. For the past week or so so much in New York City has been said and written about Derek Jeter. Not to take away anything from him, events such as this demonstrate that there are other ball players who are good role models and generous off the field. What’s even more ironic is that Mike Piazza has been linked for years to Roger Clemens for the bat tossing incident in the 2000 World Series. Roger has also been getting headlines lately for his steroid trial, however I find it more refreshing to read about these types of events.