Piazza John Godfrey
2014 World Cup

Mike Piazza Is In Brazil… To Root For the Azzurri

A random encounter in the Sao Paolo airport hints at a baseball star's un-American activities, while a not-so-random encounter suggests that the Dempseys are all in for the U-S-A.
BY John Godfrey Posted
June 14, 2014
5:54 PM
SAO PAOLO—A funny thing happened on the way to Natal: I bumped into future MLB Hall of Famer Mike Piazza at Sao Paolo's Governador André Franco Montoro international airport.

OK, I didn't really bump into him. I did see him first though.

Resplendent in a pink, zippered sweatshirt with "Palermo" emblazoned on the front, the former New York Met and Los Angeles Dodger was doing the same thing everybody else was doing—waiting for his flight and looking forward to watching some World Cup soccer.

And since I played Pony League baseball in San Diego with Piazza's former Santa Monica, Calif., roommate, Eric Karros, I figured I was within my rights to go say Hi and ask Piazza whether he was rooting for the United States, the country where he was born and raised, or Italy, the country of his pink zippered sweatshirt.

Piazza, it turns out, is a soccer fan. But unlike the many Americans around him, he wasn't heading to Natal to support the United States in its match against Ghana. He was heading to Manaus to support Italy in its World Cup opener against England.

Piazza, a native of Norristown, Penn., who lived in Cresskill, N.J., when he played for the Mets, traveled all the way from Los Angeles to Brazil to watch the Azzurri and not the Yanks? Yep.

To be fair, Piazza is also the hitting coach for the Italian national baseball team. But he was quick to say that he will be rooting for the Yanks as long as they stick around.

"I'm definitely not a frontrunner," Piazza said, "but it's like anything. Once—if—the U.S…"

He started over.

"I'm pulling for the U.S.—tried and true. But if, God forbid, they don't pull through I'll fall into the Italian camp. That's what I've done every World Cup for the last 20 years. Doesn't every fan do that?"


I also ran into four-fifths of the Dempsey family at the airport, and I'm fairly certain that their World Cup allegiances are not the least bit divided.

Bethany Dempsey, Clint's wife and a veteran of the 2010 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, stood in line next to me as we boarded the flight.

With youngest daughter Sophia wrapped up tight, the impressively calm Ms. Dempsey carried a mother's load of bags and carry-ons while keeping an eye on son Jackson and daughter Elyse, the latter of whom was busy making friends with the other passengers.

"My Daddy's the CAPTAIN!" Elyse announced, drawing smiles from her mother and everybody else within earshot.

John Godfrey is the founder and editor in chief of American Soccer Now.

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