Powell: The passion of Mike Piazza: How the midlife crisis of a Hall of Famer led to the demise of an Italian soccer club

From Robert Andrew Powell at The Athletic on December 18, 2018:

When​ Mike Piazza arrived in Reggio Emilia, he​ was​ greeted as a hero.

It​ was June 18,​ 2016.​  Everyone​​ remembers the exact date. Piazza had just purchased a controlling interest in A.C. Reggiana 1919, the Italian city’s soccer club. Few locals had heard of him. Even fewer understood his Hall of Fame career catching for the Mets, Dodgers, and three other teams in the American sport of baseball. “When I learned he was the new owner, I went out and bought his autobiography,” says Jacopo Della Porta, a reporter for La Gazzetta di Reggio. “I think I’m the only one here who has read it.” Piazza was obviously rich. His U.S. citizenship gave him a certain baseline allure. Above all, it was his stated plan to return Reggiana to the top flight of Italian soccer that inspired several thousand fans to squeeze into a public square to see him in person.

Reggiana had languished in Serie C, the Italian third division, since the turn of the century. For a club that has known glory—Carlo Ancelotti coached the team into Serie A, in 1996—the long spell of mediocrity has been dispiriting, even embarrassing. Piazza declared, in translated English, that the club was back in solid financial shape. He said he was in Italy for the long haul, invested in the community, and committed to Reggiana’s success. At the rally, smoke from ignited flares swirled around him. Maroon flags waved. Ultras raised their scarves and chanted songs and reached out to shake Piazza’s hand. “Dai c’andom!” Piazza shouted. “Come on!”

Read the full article here (subscription required): https://theathletic.com/721275/2018/12/18/the-passion-of-mike-piazza-how-the-midlife-crisis-of-a-baseball-hall-of-famer-led-to-the-demise-of-a-100-year-old-italian-soccer-club/

Originally published: December 19, 2018. Last Updated: December 19, 2018.