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A's players recall season with Piazza

A's players recall season with Piazza

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OAKLAND -- Mike Piazza's final Major League season may have appeared to fans across the nation as just another fun go-around that gave the veteran a chance to hit almost every day in the designated hitter spot, but for the guys who played beside him last year in Oakland, it was more like an unforgettable farewell tour.

A few hours after Piazza's formal retirement announcement was made Tuesday, A's closer Huston Street was not talking about his career-high five strikeouts he posted Monday against Tampa Bay, but rather about the former Oakland player's shared love for art.

"I really enjoyed having Mike around," Street said before the second game of a three-game series against the Rays. "We both love art and we were actually supposed to go to a couple art museums around here."

Art was just one of several topics Street said he felt comfortable talking about with Piazza. For the young pitcher, having the 16-year veteran around made the A's clubhouse an education avenue -- and not just one for tips to be put to use on the field.

"He's extremely well-read," Street said, "so I was always picking his brain. I was just the 23-year-old young guy, so having someone like him around was awesome."

Piazza, 39, batted a respectable .275 with 85 hits, 44 RBIs and eight home runs in 83 games for the A's, who took an $8.5 million chance on the probable Hall of Fame catcher. Oakland was Piazza's fifth team, and the 2007 season was his only one in the American League.

"He was a great teammate to have here," Bobby Crosby said. "It was like it is having Frank Thomas around. They're both really successful guys who are very accessible to talk to."

Piazza is most likely to be remembered as the 62nd-round Draft choice who turned himself into one of the Mets' most famed ballplayers. Turning around to make conversation with teammates, however, was also one of his celebrated qualities.

"He shares a lot of the same political views as I do," Street said, "and he and I could really relate on our overall views about life."

Street also turned to the veteran for some input for his walkout theme song. Even though they couldn't quite decide on one, Street said Piazza's help influenced his current choice of Nas' "Hate Me Now."

"I love the instrumental part of that song," the closer said. "Mike has a solid appreciation and ear for music.

"You could always find him on the air drums around here."

Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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