Carroll: Mike Hits It Out Of The Park Again

“The first thing that I’d like to do is thank the Lord for making the rain stop!” Mike Piazza said with a hearty laugh at the podium as he kicked off his speech thanking the Mets for retiring his No. 31 uniform. The weather had been awful in Queens for most of Saturday afternoon and there was concern about whether the ceremony would be able to take place. Then again Mets fans have long been accustomed to Mike coming through for them when it seemed as if all hope was lost.

At a press conference held two hours before the start of the ceremony, I asked Mike, who wrote his autobiography two years ago titled “Long Shot,” about the writing process for both his Hall of Fame speech in Cooperstown, which many consider to be one of the best inductions ever, and his upcoming speech to the Citi Field faithful.

He said that he began an outline on a recent flight back from Europe (Piazza owns an Italian professional soccer team) but truly began work on it the Monday before the Cooperstown ceremony because he wanted to keep things as fresh as possible. “A lot of the Hall of Famers gave me some good-natured grief that my speech was too long,” Piazza told the press. “There will be more ad-libs tonight,” he said with his trademark smile.

He certainly kept his word about keeping things spontaneous. Realizing that rain could start falling again, Mike said that it might be prudent for him to wrap things up so that fans could get in the scheduled Rockies-Mets game.” The fans quickly voiced their displeasure at that notion and he quickly reversed field and continued.

While he thanked former teammates, his manager Bobby Valentine, former general manager Steve Phillips, and the Mets ownership family, the Wilpons, Mike spent the bulk of his speech thanking Mets fans for their overwhelming support. It was clear that this wasn’t a perfunctory obligation as he spoke about how he is a Mets fan and lives and dies with the team as he watches their games from his home in Florida. He urged Mets fans to look up at the circular number 31 on the roof and remember that “Old Mikey” is with them when things aren’t looking good for the Amazin’s.

Current Mets manager Terry Collins must have been tempted to ask Piazza to suit up given the way the Mets paltry offense had been performing on the homestand particularly with runners in scoring position. It hasn’t helped matters that the Mets have become Blue Cross-Blue Shield’s team as third baseman Jose Reyes and centerfielder Juan Lagares were placed on the disabled list while outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is far from 100% with a leg strain nor is shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera who badly hurt his knee on Sunday.

World Team Tennis made its debut at Forest Hills Stadium as the league’s newest team, the New York Empire took on the defending champs, the Washington Kastles. It was a small but enthusiastic crowd that attended and they did not seem too disappointed that the home team lost 22-15. Tennis royalty Billie Jean King and Virginia Wade watched the action from center court VIP box seats.

The WTT is a fun way to see both retired stars as Martina Hingis, Mardy Fish, and Andy Roddick compete as well as current stars as Sam Querrey and Caroline Wozniacki and up-and-comers as Christina McHale, Noah Rubin, and Guido Pella. The court is multi-colored and rock music is constantly blaring which differentiates it from the action at the US Open which gets underway at the end of this month. Another big difference is that you can buy a ticket for $15.

I asked golfer Jimmy Walker, who was at the top of the leaderboard at the PGA Championship on Thursday at Baltusrol, if he could describe the difference between playing in one of golf’s four majors (The Masters, US Open, British Open, and the PGA Championship) as opposed to the weekly tournament on the PGA Tour. “To me, golf is golf. On the other hand if I am winning on Sunday this will feel awfully big!” he replied. Walker played the best golf of his life as he led from start to finish and edged out defending champ Jason Day from Australia by one stroke.

I ran into 2011 PGA Championship winner as well as St. John’s alum Keegan Bradley on the practice putting green. Bradley wasn’t much of a factor at Baltusrol but he is looking forward to taking part in the Barclays that will take place in a few weeks at the Bethpage Black Course.

It took courage on Yankees general manager Brian Cashman’s part to deal two of his best relief pitchers, Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, and get back highly touted prospects in return. It would have been easy for the Yankees to do nothing and keep the facade that they were all in for this year given the fact that two teams qualify for the wild card game that kicks off the post-season. After all, the Yankees did qualify for that one-game playoff in 2015 before they were done in by pitcher Dallas Keuchel and the Houston Astros.

To be fair, the Yankees are not totally putting up the white flag as they did reacquire two relief pitchers who are Bronx Bombers alums, Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren. Without disrespect to their talents however, they are not Chapman and Miller.

The recent wave of hot and humid weather has made it hard to any cooking or even to enjoy hot meals in general. If you are looking for food that will hit the spot that doesn’t require preparation Dole Salad Kits, Bumble Bee Tuna sold white albacore cans and pouches, and Brad’s Organic Almond Butter all get the job done. Staying hydrated is quite important and WTRMLN WTR (watermelon water), Lifeway Kefir, and Arizona Black & White Iced Tea will quench any thirst in the heat of summer. If you like ice cream, give Brio whole ice milk, which comes in fun flavors as Madagascar Vanilla Bean, Tropical Mango, Café, Latte, and Vanilla Caramel a try. They are served in dixie cups so you don’t to worry about portion control.

Summer of course is the time when we all break out t-shirts on weekends. Home T ( shirts come in soft cotton and feature silhouettes of all 50 states so you can show the state of your birth or current domicile with pride. A portion of the sales proceeds go to research in finding a cure for multiple sclerosis.

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