Piazza embracing Cooperstown experience

Electee grateful to spend time with Hall of Famers before Sunday's induction

Piazza embracing Cooperstown experience

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Set off from Cooperstown's main drag by a cluster of picturesque streets on one side, from Otsego Lake by a rich green lawn on the other, Otesaga Hotel is this weekend's social center for Baseball Hall of Famers. That includes Hall of Fame-elect Mike Piazza, who has just hours to go before his induction into Cooperstown at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, live on MLB Network and MLB.com.

Piazza was whiling away some hours at the hotel lounge on Thursday night when a group of Hall of Famers in attendance told him he had to perform. Piazza picked up a pair of drumsticks and started playing with the band. No, the Hall of Famers told him. Sing. So Piazza attempted to channel his inner Jon Bon Jovi.

Jokingly, the bartender approached Piazza's wife, telling her to get him back behind the drum set as quickly as possible.

"Even my drumming is underwhelming," Piazza said, laughing. "But I think it's a lot better than my singing."

It was the type of scene that can only unfold in Cooperstown, and only on Hall of Fame weekend, when dozens of living legends cluster together to welcome the newest of their cadre. Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr. will join that group on Sunday, after days' worth of events held largely in their honor.

"Obviously, it's an amazingly high standard to get into the Baseball Hall of Fame," Piazza said. "This is truly a special moment for me, and I'm very grateful. I'm excited, obviously, to share this with my family and a few of the guys that I've played with and been coached by in the past. It's truly a special event."

While Piazza has spent the past weeks and months dreaming up his induction speech, which he will deliver Sunday at the Clark Sports Center about a mile from the Hall, that ceremony will be relatively brief. Piazza's memories here will last forever, and the former Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Padres and A's catcher's list of them is growing by the hour.

His time behind the drum set was only the start; Piazza has also spent time reminiscing with Pedro Martinez about their shared experience in the Dominican Republic in the late 1980s, after both signed with the Dodgers. He has swapped stories with Johnny Bench, the two of them resting atop the short list of greatest-hitting catchers of all time. He has followed -- "stalked," as he jokingly put it -- boyhood idol Mike Schmidt around the golf course.

And Piazza has shared most of it with his wife and children, on hand for this weekend's events.

"There are so many great guys here and so much history," Piazza said. "It's an amazing fraternity and an amazing club. I have to say, they've all made us feel just incredibly comfortable and welcome."

Entering the Hall alongside Griffey, Piazza said, is a thrill. The two have well-publicized divergent paths, as first- and 62nd-round Draft picks. But both rank among the best offensive players of all time, beloved by their respective fan bases.

To prove it, Mets fans have descended upon Cooperstown in force, milling about Main Street in advance of Sunday's induction. Piazza is ready, too, or at least as ready as he'll ever be.

"I'm thrilled," Piazza said. "I'm definitely nervous for tomorrow. But I'm looking forward to it."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.