Piazza visits for book signing

Photo by Barry Taglieber Former Phoenixville baseball star Mike Piazza, who went on to an outstanding Major League Baseball career, was at the towne Book Center and Cafe in Collegeville Wednesday night to sign his new autobiography release, "Long Shot."

COLLEGEVILLE - Mike Piazza has now told his complete story of his baseball career that evolved into stardom as a Major League Baseball catcher along with the many issues and questions surrounding him.

The former Phoenixville Area High School baseball star and 1986 graduate has told his autobiography in a book entitled Long Shot. The book was just released this week, and he was on hand to help promote it with an appearance at the Towne Book Center and Cafe just off Route 29 on Wednesday evening.

Lines of people filled the store to have Piazza autograph books.

Piazza did the same thing Monday in New York and greeted about 500 people at each stop.

Piazza declined interviews to all media members at both appearances but agreed, with his agent Josh Goldberg, to telephone interviews at a later time from his Florida home.

Piazza, a 62nd-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, became what most people consider the greatest hitting catcher in the game before retiring a little more than five years ago. He was also a star with the New York Mets before ending his career with the San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics.

Called up to the Dodgers at the end of the 1992 season, Piazza captured 1993 National League Rookie of the Year honors. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza holds the record for home runs by a catcher (396). He held the record for season batting average by a catcher (.362), which was subsequently broken; won 10 consecutive Silver Slugger awards; finished in the top 10 in MVP voting seven times in his career; and is one of only 10 players tin MLB history to hit over .300 lifetime (.308), smack more than 400 home runs (427) and never strike out 100 times in a season.

Mike Bruno and his son, Mikey, 15, made the long trek from shore area of Ocean Township, N.J., to see Piazza. They purchased five copies of the book.

My son is a big Mike fan, said the elder Bruno. I found about it Sunday night on the Major League Baseball Web site. I got the place and called up for directions. We left at 3:15 today to make sure we got here on time. We anticipated a big turnout. My son told him he is the greatest catcher of all-time.

The Brunos feel that May 1998 was a great day for New York Mets fans because Piazza was traded there at that time.

Now he is a part of Mets history, said Bruno.

Mike is a great guy, said George Bonekemper, who has spent 30 years with the Quakertown Blazers of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League. He is a class guy.

Rich Sachs, a physical education teacher at Boyertown for 20 years, purchased four books. He said he will present one to the high school or to Jim Towers, the vice-principal at Boyertown High School.

Tell him he has a big fan at rival Boyertown, Towers sent in a phone message to Sachs. He swhould have been a first ballot Hall of Famer.

Piazza just became eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2013, but no players received the necessary 75 percent of the vote this year for induction at Cooperstown, N.Y. Piazza finished fourth in the balloting behind Craig Biggio, Jack Morris and Jeff Bagwell. Piazza is expected to be enshrined at some point in the near future.

Nik Santangelo, a 17-year-old Collegeville resident, had his Los Angeles Dodgers cap on to meet Piazza. Santangelo attends Pope John Paul II High School in Upper Providence.

I followed his career, said Santangelo. I never met him before or got his autography. This is the first time so I am really excited. I did see games where he played.