NEW YORK, NY – JULY 30: Mike Piazza talks with the media before the start of a game between the Colorado Rockies and New York Mets at Citi Field on July 30, 2016 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Piazza will have his number 31 retired by the Mets during a pre-game ceremony. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

These days, recently induced Baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza spends much of his time in Reggio Emilia, Italy, where he owns a majority stake in the local soccer team, Reggiana.

This arrangement begs a few questions, including… why didn’t Piazza buy a sports team in America, where he has lived his entire life?

Luckily, a recent New York Times profile of Piazza has the answers. It turns out Piazza could have bought an MLS expansion team but chose Italy instead because he likes the food there. Seriously.

The conversation at halftime turned to the region’s famous gastronomic tradition, or as Piazza called it, “the other reason I bought the team.” He breathlessly cataloged the area’s cured meats: “The prosciutto, the bresaola, the coppa, the mortadella — that’s all here.”

Noting that he had met with groups aiming for expansion franchises in Major League Soccer before buying Reggiana, he said: “I’d rather be poor in Italy than based in St. Louis. You can’t get a good meal there!

Whew, shots fired at St. Louis. Sure Italy has a more stories culinary history than St. Louis, but there’s good food everywhere, right? Why you gotta do St. Louis like that, Mike?

According to the Times, Piazza has studied up on Italian, boned up on soccer and spent time with Reggiana supporters, so he’s doing this owner thing for real. And he’s getting good reviews from fans like Gabriele Miari and team executives like Maurizio Franzone.

“He made us feel close to him even though he’s a very wealthy man,” Miari said. He shrugged when asked to rate Piazza’s language skills. “His Italian is like our English,” he said. “It needs practice.”

Piazza, who took six months of Italian lessons (and acknowledges that he needs more), has been brushing up on his soccer, too. He grew up near Philadelphia and had only a passing interest in the sport until he retired. He joked that he once thought Reggiana’s favored formation was a 4-4-3, a nonsensical configuration. But Franzone said Piazza’s baseball career had given him credibility with players and fans alike. “They know you know the smell of a locker room,” he often tells Piazza.

It sounds like Piazza is having a good time as a team owner. He probably wouldn’t have had the same experience—or the same cured meats—in St. Louis.

[New York Times]

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.