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BASEBALL DAILY REPORT : DODGERS : Piazza Shies From Attention

March 17, 1994|MARYANN HUDSON

Mike Piazza put in a full day's work in only five innings Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves, hitting a home run and sacrifice fly and throwing out a runner attempting to steal, before turning the catching gear over to Carlos Hernandez. But the game was far from over, lasting 3 hours and 48 minutes before Mike Sharperson's single in the 12th inning gave the Dodgers an 8-7 victory at Vero Beach, Fla.

By then, Piazza was gone, having first signed autographs for about an hour outside the Dodgertown clubhouse. Four weeks into spring training, Piazza is still doing his best to accommodate the fans, but he says sometimes the attention makes him edgy, and he thinks he understands why.

"I like to watch all sports--I just don't get into the stats and all," he said. "And that's what is difficult for me sometimes now, with all the attention that I'm getting.

"When I was a kid, I just used to watch players and see how they carried themselves. I was embarrassed to ask them for a broken bat, or for their autograph. I used to go to the Phillies' games and watch everything Mike Schmidt used to do, how he fixed his hair, his hat, how he adjusted his sunglasses. I aspired to be how he was. He wasn't flashy, he just did his job and was one of the greatest third baseman ever. Then, when I played third base in Little League, I tried to be just like him."

Piazza said he got to meet Schmidt once when he was a batboy for the Dodgers. "I shook his hand and didn't say a word because I didn't want him to fluff me off," Piazza said. "That's the reason that, for me, it's kind of tough with everybody always wanting something from me all the time. I read a story the other day that said I just wanted to be left alone, but that's not true. I enjoy the people, but sometimes there are just a few bad eggs that ruin it for everybody. They don't understand I have to get my work done first. That is what brought me to this position anyway. But I'm doing my best."

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