By Leif Skodnick
NEW YORK – As the lights of Manhattan shimmered across the East River, baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza glowed as he accepted the Tommy Lasorda Award from the Italian-American Baseball Foundation at the organization’s annual gala at Giando on the Water in Brooklyn.
Piazza, who will manage Team Italy in the upcoming 2023 World Baseball Classic, was honored alongside the Washington Nationals special assistant to the general manager Mike Pagliarulo, Federazione Italiana Baseball Softball head of marketing and communications Marco Landi, MLB International senior vice president Jim Small, Philadelphia Phillies and Team Italy catcher Vito Friscia and New York Yankees broadcaster Michael Kay.
Accepting the Tommy Lasorda Award, Piazza, who has a home in Italy, peppered his acceptance with Italian phrases and acknowledged his family and heritage.
“We Italian-Americans love our heritage, our God, and our country,” Piazza said to applause while nodding to the history of Italian-Americans in New York City. “It’s particularly great to be here, to look across the river at those buildings that so many of our ancestors helped build.”
Piazza, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016, is widely regarded as one of the greatest hitting catchers in major league history after a 16-year career that saw him win the 1993 National League Rookie of the Year Award, make 12 All-Star Game appearances, smacking 427 home runs and batting .308/.377/.545 with an OPS of .922 in 1912 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres.
Kay, a Bronx native who started his career as a newspaper reporter covering the Yankees for the New York Post before moving to the New York Daily News and eventually into the broadcast booth, was honored with the IABF’s media award. He has been behind the microphone for every big moment in Yankees history since 1992, most recently calling Aaron Judge’s 62nd home run of the 2022 season at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Tex., which gave the Yankee outfielder the record for home runs in an American League season.
Pagliarulo, who spent 11 seasons as a player in the major leagues and another season in Japan before moving to coaching and then the front office, was honored with the IABF’s Achievement Award.
Small, who’s career in baseball began in the 1980s as a public relations staffer with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago Cubs, and Texas Rangers, was honored as the IABF’s Executive of the Year. As Senior Vice President, Internation at Major League Baseball, Small oversees the World Baseball Classic as well as MLB’s efforts to market and grow the game outside the U.S.
Landi, a native Italian, was honored for his work to promote baseball in Italy. He oversees FIBS’s marketing and communications efforts and serves as the Federazione’s national teams coordinator.