CHICAGO -- Mike Piazza is no stranger to chatting around the batting cage before a game.

But for the time being, he's doing it in a dress shirt and tie.

The All-Star catcher with 397 career home runs is talking up players, coaches, managers and baseball executives as he prepares to offer commentary and insight on ESPN's telecasts of the Red Sox-White Sox American League Division Series.

"I don't know about it as a next career," Piazza said. "I'll worry about that when I get there. This is a lot of fun. Working with ESPN, Boomer [Chris Berman] and Rick Sutcliffe.

"I don't want to say they've made it easy, because it's definitely a little bit of work, but it's been fun for me. It's been interesting and a different perspective. It's definitely a learning experience for me."

Piazza's gift for gab was first discovered by ESPN during their broadcasts of the All-Star Home Run Derby in 2000.

"It's fun to dabble in that," he said. "I've always enjoyed promoting the game as well, because this game has given so much to me. [If] this is something I can do to keep the game rolling and the keep the popularity in baseball rising, then that's what I want to do."

So, what are his thoughts about the series he's covering?

"I think Chicago came into this series with great momentum, and as you saw [Tuesday] they scored a lot of runs," said Piazza prior to Game 2. "I believe whoever wins [Game 2] is going to win the series, because I think Boston will take the split going back home.

"They've always played well at home, but if Chicago can keep the hammer down and keep the pressure on them, that's going to be tough. Even though Boston has done it before, it's still very tough to come back down 2-0 in a best-of-five series."

Still fresh in Piazza's mind is the 15-minute sendoff he was given by Mets fans during Fan Appreciation Day last Sunday at Shea Stadium.

"I don't know what to say," Piazza said of the fans who have cheered him since he came to the Big Apple prior to the 1999 season. "People have taken me in and made me a part of their family and brought the best out of me. Who knows the way this game works if it's the end or not, but the bottom line is they've truly humbled me. I've played hard and there were a lot of ups and downs, but that day made it all worth it."

In his first two years with the Mets, he helped them to the postseason, highlighted by his first and only trip so far to the World Series in 2000. Now after seven years with the Mets, the 37-year-old free agent realizes that he will likely call another city home in 2006.

"There are so many variables that go into it," he said. "I've never been a free agent before, so it's a different stage for my career and me. I'm just interested in being in the right place, whether that's back in New York or somewhere else. Who knows? I just want to enjoy the last few years [of my career], hopefully contribute and be a good role player on the team and do whatever I can to help the team win."