Baseball slugger Mike Piazza on praying for home runs, forgiving opponents, and passing judgment on Barry Bonds.
BY: Interview by Michael Kress
My personal opinion is to keep it broader, to get up in the morning and pray for the Lord's blessings. Pray for the Lord to help me do my best at my job. To pray for health. Pray for guidance. Pray for all these things. And then all the little things kind of slide in.
But I've always found, too, that you have to take a step back in life and reconnect with the simpler things in life. For me, grabbing my wife and my baby, walking down the street and having coffee on the street in San Francisco, and just watching the beautiful things about the city. And just slowing it down a little bit, because we're so high-paced in this country. We don't take the time to just exhale, and breathe a little bit, and reconnect, and say a little prayer at times. I think about God and Jesus Christ and eternity--there isn't an hour that goes by that I don't think about it. And I think that that's something that people can connect with.
Do you have a favorite prayer?
|Reciting the Hail Mary|
I love the rosary, and I say the Hail Mary a lot. The devotion, especially my devotion to the Holy Mother, is something that's helped me a lot. And I love praying the rosary, so I say my Hail Marys all the time.
Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.
Could you say a little more about what Mary means to you?
The fact that she was just so devoted and so special, that God chose her to bear his son. It's, like, wow. It's really a special thing. I love reading about her, and reading about some of the apparitions, or reported apparitions, throughout history. I wish I had so much grace that I would be privileged to see it. Because I think of the people in the past that have been chosen [to see visions of Mary] have certainly had to be very special to witness that.
Do you have a favorite Bible passage?
One of my favorite passages is the story about the people going to the wedding, and they sat in a high place of honor. And they were told to go down to a lower place. And then the people that sat in a lower place, then they were told to go to a higher place. And it says he who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.
I've always tried to live life that way. It's just, try to be as humble as possible. And to be humble means to live in the truth, as well. I believe St. Augustine said that. So humility is--especially in this day and age in the media--a very forgotten quality. It's almost non-existent. The media doesn't want humble people now. They want dysfunctional, loud, boisterous very obnoxious people. And you're seeing a lot of that.
Speaking of the media, how do you deal with the fact that you're in this position where pretty much every move, professionally and personally, is something that's reported on and dissected and discussed?
It's frustrating at times. There's been times in my career--I don't want to say my star has faded a little bit, but I think I'm obviously on the last third of my career--when it was a little bit more intense for me, [especially] living in New York my first few years there.
Whether you're a movie star or an athlete, you have to understand that you are a role model. You just are, by default. And when you seek out this career, whether that is on the screen or in sports, it's almost impossible for me to comprehend when someone's like, "Well, I just wanted to play ball. I didn't want everything else that comes along with it." Because all these other things do come along with it.
You've had to deal with instances where all sorts of rumors about your personal life were circulated in the media.
It was weird. I looked at it like a test of my faith, so to speak. Obviously it wasn't self-inflicted. But I just dealt with it as best I could and tried to be sort of kind and not lash out. I always say your first reaction is the wrong one. You're going to go through the spectrum. You're going to get mad and frustrated. And the media want to capture that reaction, not the one of logic and reason and calmness. So you have to go through that spectrum of emotions and then come to balance in the middle. And that's what I did.
But on a larger lesson, too, you have to worry about things in your control, and not worry about things out of your control. So, I think, so many people in this day and age worry about what people think, worry about what people are saying about them, worry about things that they just can't control. You have to take care of your own garden, take care of your own self, manage yourself. And that will allow you to be better to other people.
In a profession like yours, which is based on intense competition, do you ever feel a need to forgive the other team?
I always say, when I get between the lines [on the field], this switch goes on in my head and I turn into this very intense soldier, warrior, whatever you want to call it. And that's what allowed me to thrive on the field and do my job.
And as far as forgiveness, it does get intense. And there are people sometimes that try to hurt you or physically try to do things to you which aren't really sportsmanlike. Forgiving someone is very difficult at times because you take things very personally, and you realize that it's your career. And if someone tries to go out of their way to harm you, or make you look bad in a job, it's very difficult to forgive them.
But it's what The Book says. You pray for your enemies and you forgive your enemies--it ticks them off that much more. They want to drag you down into the hole. They want to get you into a catfight. And, for me, you do them that much more frustration when you just stay above it.
Is there any pressure among major leaguers not to express one's faith?
Not so much in athletics. But, in society today, I think that there is an assault on faith. I think that there is an assault on people who are proud of their faith. And secular progressive people are a little bit more empowered as well. It's easy to pick on Christians, so to speak, in this day and age.
At least growing up for me, I'm realizing that we are imperfect. But, the thing is, that that doesn't mean that we shouldn't suffer from guilt and suffer from shame. The assault is that that these people don't want to feel guilty about things, and they don't like institutions to tell them that they should feel guilty about something.
When I was a kid, when I did something wrong, my mom would say, "You should be ashamed of yourself." And now, people are like, "No, you should never tell kids they should be ashamed."
It's frustrating to me when I hear these people who just don't want to feel guilt. I think that that's a really dangerous thing. And I think it's why now we as people of faith have to keep getting out there, saying no, that this isn't right. We have a fundamental belief of what is right and what is wrong. You are personally responsible for your actions.
You acknowledged earlier that you're in the "last third of your career." What's next for you, after being an active player?
That's a good question. It's something we all have to face one day, especially in baseball. You can't play forever. And I don't know. I’m praying about it right now, actually. That's where prayer comes in. I pray a path that I'll able to help people. I'd love to help people and do some motivational speaking. I've dabbled in broadcasting. I don't know if that's in my future. I'd love to get back to the game and help kids with hitting. I'm just going to enjoy my family for a couple years, enjoy raising my daughter and getting her into a good Catholic school. [Laughs.] Just kidding.
What inspires you to keep going?
It just comes from within. I was blessed with a tremendous amount of focus and discipline. I read a great quote that said if you seek freedom, you will become captive of your desires. And if you seek discipline, you will find your liberty. We are better when we have a goal, when we have something to work for. Sigmund Freud said that man has two desires, to work and to love. And that's in its simplest form.
That's what I try to tell people. I'm like, "You can do it. You can pick yourself up. You can find a skill. You can go to school. There are people that want to help you. There is resources out there. But, you have to seek it out. And you only get out of something what you put into it."
And that's a key that I've learned in my career. I realized I had to put much more effort than the guy who was the first round draft pick. And obviously, it came back for me, so I'm a lesson that people can learn from, realizing that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and focus and dedicate yourself.