Piazza, the Major League's all-time home run hitting catcher, was presented
his new Padres jersey -- No. 33 -- by executive vice president/GM Kevin Towers and
manager Bruce Bochy.
"[Piazza's traditional No. 31] was worn by a Hall of Famer: Mr. [Dave] Winfield," said Piazza. "I've
always had threes in numbers, so this is something new to me, but it's fine. I'm not crazy or superstitious about numbers; I just want to help contribute to
a great team and ultimately a great season."
"It's a very exciting day for all of us here in San Diego," said Towers.
"Bruce [Bochy] and I have had first-hand an opportunity to watch what this
guy can do on the playing field not only when he was with the Dodgers, but
also when he was with New York. He broke our hearts many a time with
walk-off home runs and clutch base hits. He's arguably one of the greatest
offensive catchers of our time, a tremendous competitor who plays the game
the way it's supposed to be played.
"It's a family here, and hopefully we can
get started the next couple of weeks, and hopefully help put a ring on all of
"I've had the chance to see Mike for quite a few years," added Bochy, "going
back to the Minor Leagues. That's why I'm very excited for him. I've always
admired how Mike has played the game. He's always played it hard, and he's
been a leader out there.
"I remember the first time I got to know Mike a little bit in 1999 at the
All-Star Game in Boston [where Bochy was managing the NL]," Bochy said. "I'm
trying to get the lineup straight and figure out how much guys want to play,
and he said, 'Hey Bruce, whatever you need, you want me to go nine, I'll go
nine.' That's just the way he is. And we're very excited having him lead our
For Piazza, it came down to choosing between the Padres and the "hometown"
While he acknowledges that Towers came with discussions early on, in the
free agent period it was Rick Sutcliffe, a one-time Padres pitcher and
announcer, who helped point him toward the Padres.
"I was fortunate to work with Rick at ESPN during the playoffs," said
Piazza. "And he kept on saying, 'You gotta think about San Diego, you have to
think about San Diego.' At that time, being on the East Coast for years, you
become ingrained in your routine, so I never thought I would get back to
the West Coast and play baseball.
The weather also played a role in his decision, as well as the fact that his
wife is from Southern California.
"You look at the weather in the Northeast, where it's cool and rainy during
the spring and hot and humid in the summer," said Piazza. "I'm no longer a
spring chicken, and the weather back East can take a toll on an older body.
Piazza was later asked about what he would bring to the Padres pitching staff.
"I've been catching for 14 years, and [have played in] 11 or 12 All-Star Games," said Piazza.
"I've caught some Hall of Fame-bound pitchers, caught some amazing talented
pitchers, and I've caught no-hitters. I've always been a student of pitching
and catching. Maybe what I lack in pure defense I can bring to other areas
as far as blocking the plate, sacrificing my body for the team."
Piazza said that he and Bochy will monitor the playing situation with Doug
Mirabelli, whom he refers to as a "co-catcher" as opposed to a backup
catcher. Piazza also addressed the possibility of playing first base when he might not be
Piazza was asked what he would miss most about New York.
"New York is a great city. I've been there for eight years and made a lot of
great friends," Piazza said. "All the fans ... that's what I'll miss. I was in
Manhattan about a week ago, and everyone told me, 'Good luck in San Diego, best of luck to you out there, go Padres.'
"I really have connected with the
people there. And I hope to do the same in San Diego."