Mike Piazza was inducted into Cooperstown on Sunday, and during his emotional speech thanked several Dodgers who helped shape his life and career.
"It truly was an honor and privilege to be drafted, signed and developed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mr. Peter O'Malley was a wonderful owner, was a tremendous family man who prided himself in the best possible atmosphere to play baseball in an otherwise quiet town of Vero Beach," Piazza said. "I will always be eternally grateful for the opportunity."
Tommy Lasorda, a longtime friend of Piazza's father Vince, both from Norristown, Pennsylvania, convinced the Dodgers to draft Piazza in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft.
"Tommy Lasorda was always in my corner. He believed when he watched me hit at the young age of 14 that I could play major league baseball. Tommy, you were always there for me," Piazza said during his speech. "You made me your batboy when the Dodgers were in Philadelphia. You always sent me baseball equipment when I needed it. You convinced the Dodgers to draft me.
"You gave me big league at-bats in spring training when I was a green, wide-eyed kid out of junior college. You went to bat for me when I walked away from the game. You convinced the Dodgers to let a very popular catcher in Mike Scioscia go so that a veteran pitching staff would know that I was their catcher in my rookie year, no matter how many mistakes I made, or how inexperienced I was."
Piazza remembered his Dodgers teammate and former roommate Eric Karros, who was in Cooperstown for the ceremony. Piazza also remembered John Roseboro and Kevin Kennedy, his first catching instructors in the Dodgers organization when he was drafted in 1988, and also remembered getting to face Sandy Koufax in batting practice.
There was also Reggie Smith, who helped convince Piazza to continue playing when he wanted to quit in the minor leagues.
"You are a great hitting coach, but the biggest lesson that you taught me was how to get through the game of life, and to never quit," Piazza said of Smith.
There were several other Dodgers mentioned by Piazza during his speech, including former coaches Joe Ferguson and Joey Amalfitano, and scout Mel Diddier. If there is any animosity between Piazza and the Dodgers organization, certainly none of it was evident in his heartfelt, moving speech.
But perhaps the most emotional moment was when Piazza thanked his father Vince, as both men had tears streaming down their cheeks.
"We made it Dad. The race is over," Piazza said. "Now is the time to smell the roses."
Here is a look at Piazza's Hall of Fame plaque, which was unveiled during the induction ceremony.
Mike Piazza, welcome to immortality. #FIRSTLOOK #HOFWKND @Mets https://t.co/aW5KGrv3aU pic.twitter.com/3pnuZ4gD8K— Baseball Hall ⚾ (@baseballhall) July 24, 2016