Bigger than baseball: Piscotty reflects on homecoming in trade to A's


Bigger than baseball: Piscotty reflects on homecoming in trade to A's

He’ll be playing in front of his family and hometown fans, in the ballpark he grew up going to as a kid.

Stephen Piscotty is fully aware that not many major leaguers get to do this, but his trade from the St. Louis Cardinals to the A’s means so much more on a deeper level.

The Pleasanton native will get to play in front of his mother, Gretchen, who was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”, in May.

It was a difficult and emotional 2017 season for Piscotty, a 26-year-old outfielder who left the Cardinals for a period to be with his family and also dealt with two stints on the disabled list. He struggled to a .235 batting average after a 22-homer, 85-RBI season in 2016.

He admits how difficult it was to concentrate on baseball, with his thoughts drifting back to the Bay Area and his Mom. Piscotty expressed gratitude to the Cardinals for their treatment of him during his tough time and for their efforts in orchestrating a trade that brought him home.

The A’s sent minor league infielders Yairo Munoz and Max Schrock to St. Louis in a deal that was finalized Thursday.

“We’re pretty emotionally tied to that organization,” Piscotty said of the Cardinals. “It chokes me up a little bit. But family obviously comes first, and sometimes some things are more important than baseball. With this opportunity here, it’s just a great combination of family and baseball. … A lot of good is going to come out of it.”

Piscotty and his brothers, Austin and Nick, grew up going to the Coliseum, as his father, Mike, has been an A’s season ticket holder for more than two decades. In May, their tight-knit family was rocked by news of Gretchen’s diagnosis.

“I remember kind of thinking ‘OK, they diagnosed it a certain way but it’s gonna turn out to be something else,” Piscotty said. “I didn’t want to believe it. I kept playing for a couple days, but I was so distracted, I couldn’t focus. I really didn’t care about what was happening on the field.”

Piscotty talked with manager Mike Matheny, hitting coach John Mabry and others.

“They were like, ‘You need to go home,’ and it was the right decision,” Piscotty said. “… It was a roller coaster year. I got sent down (to the minors), but I learned a lot. I’m gonna tap into some of those experiences.”

The A’s feel they’re getting an athletic corner outfielder about to reach his prime. Piscotty inked a six-year $33.5 million before the 2017 season, so he’s locked up at an affordable rate moving forward.

Piscotty has played mostly right field, but he and new teammate Matt Joyce can handle either corner spot.

Though the A’s made the trade primarily for baseball purposes, general manager David Forst added that “it’s wonderful for his family, and hopefully it will have given him and his family some peace of mind.”

Piscotty got news of the trade while in Pebble Beach with friends for a golf trip that had been a long time in the planning. Team orthopedist Dr. Will Workman actually made the drive to Pebble to administer Piscotty’s physical — at a local Airbnb property — so the A’s and Cardinals could finalize the trade.

Piscotty lives in Pleasanton in the offseason, but the family recently made a trip to St. Louis and saw the Budweiser Clydesdales. Gretchen loves horses.

Piscotty is optimistic his mother will be able to get out to the Coliseum to see him play. He credits his father, who has “worked his tail off” to take care of insurance needs and medications for Gretchen.

“We’re in a good place,” Stephen said. “We’re at a point where we’ve got things pretty dialed in and we can move around and go places.”

The support has poured in from St. Louis and the Bay Area. A’s president Dave Kaval, responding to a fan on Twitter, said the team will donate some of the proceeds from Piscotty jersey sales to ALS research.

“I wish I didn’t need all of their support, but it’s nice to have it,” Gretchen Piscotty told the Bay Area News Group.

Stephen, who grew up idolizing Tim Hudson and Mark McGwire, is excited to wear green and gold. Getting to spend more time with his mother provides a different kind of lift.

“That will give me a lot of comfort and peace of mind knowing I’m close.”

POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Braden's Perfect Game vs Long's game-saving catch in Fenway


POLL: A's Memorable Moments -- Braden's Perfect Game vs Long's game-saving catch in Fenway

PROGRAMMING NOTE: NBC Sports California is looking back at the A's 50 Memorable Moments since the franchise relocated to Oakland in 1968. Below are the next two moments you can vote on. Tune into A's Pregame Live tonight at 6:30pm to watch highlights of the two moments. After the A's and Padres conclude, tune into A's Postgame Live to see which moment will move on to the next round!

1. Dallas Braden's Perfect Game on Mother's Day 2010 (11-time winner -- Defeated The Big Three's sweep of the D'backs in Arizona in 2001)

(From Dallas Braden)

Well, they haven’t taken it away yet so I guess it might not be a dream after all. It’s still insane to think that on such a special day for so many people, my teammates and I were able to etch ourselves into the hearts of A’s fans everywhere.

In the moment, I had no clue. At the same time, I was fully aware. Completely focused and emotionally distracted at the same time. Hell, I talked myself into the wrong count in the last at-bat of the game. The 27th out. In that moment I had no clue. No clue I’d become the vehicle for such an emotional moment shared between mothers and their families across baseball that special day. I do believe that’s what I was -- merely a vehicle to connect people through our beautiful game. My mom, along with the baseball gods, and Landon Powell, I guess, all steered us down the path of history and to be able to share and relive those special moments and memories is a blessing a young little leaguer can only dream of.

I hope that through my passion for the game you feel the same love I, myself, my wife, baby girl, and grandmother have felt from each of you, the fans of the Green & Gold. We couldn’t be happier to share this Mother’s Day and every Mother’s Day from here on out, TOGETHER! It’s a perfect fit if you ask me.


2. Terrence Long's game-saving catch over the wall at Fenway in 2002

(From Ben Ross)

On August 7, 2002, Terrence Long stunned Fenway Park and the entire city of Boston. With two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and the A's clinging to a 3-2 lead over the Red Sox, Manny Ramirez sent a fly ball deep to right-center field. Long took off from his position in center field and made a leaping catch over the wall to preserve the win for Oakland.

Long was immediately tackled by fellow outfielder Jermaine Dye in celebration. Closer Billy Koch was so happy, he ran all the way to the outfield to give Long a bear hug.

Six days later, the A's would begin their historic 20-game win streak. They would go on to win the AL West with a record of 103-59.


In all the whispers of a Giants-A's management shuffle, one notion stands out


In all the whispers of a Giants-A's management shuffle, one notion stands out

The San Francisco Chronicle shares with us the thinking of an unthinkable notion.

Brian Sabean, Oakland A's general manager.

But first, a bit of fairness. The author, Susan Slusser, who knows the A’s well enough to perform elective surgery on most of the executives and all the players, doesn’t say this will happen, should happen or even might happen. Indeed, she slides the notion neatly into paragraph 14 and describes the scenario as “whispers . . . within both teams.”

But the Giants’ baseball brainbuckets, Sabean, Bobby Evans and Bruce Bochy all have contracts that expire next year, and A’s owner John Fisher is remaking the organization’s front office all around the baseball folks, and one can fairly assume that he’ll get around to them if the results aren’t more invigorating in a hinders-in-seats kind of way.

So some folks see a potential resource swap in each team’s future, though there are contractual and emotional complications galore, starting with this seemingly obvious one:

Larry Baer and Billy Beane would work together with the same mutual devotion typically found in firemen and arsonists. That seems monumentally unlikely, Beane would have to divest his ownership stake in the A’s (millions are just a phone call away, of course), and Slusser does not offer that as a potential scenario.

But maybe it isn’t Beane but Forst whom Baer might covet. A job with resources might interest Forst, but his loyalty to Beane has precluded such a notion to date. Beane, for his part, might decide it’s time to become full Johnny Soccer and become more involved with Barnsley, the English team of which he owns a slice, and AZ Alkmaar, the Dutch team for which he offers consultations at the standard rate.

As to the reverse, it is hard to imagine Sabean or Bochy starting over, either in Oakland for the spectral John Fisher or anywhere else, given that Sabean would be 62 and Bochy 64. Their ages aren’t the disqualifiers, though; the mileage is. Bochy will have managed just over 4,100 games by the end of next year, seventh on the all-time list, and Sabean will have run a ballclub longer than anyone but Branch Rickey and Ed Barrow. To go across the bay to supervise the transition to a new ballpark for an apparently undercapitalized (by baseball standards) boss they barely know seems nearly preposterous.

It’s a provocative thought, of course, or rather, set of thoughts, and by no means is it inconceivable. But like most thoughts, clearing the “inconceivable” bar is light years from “this makes perfect sense.” Baer’s main goal has been to drive the A’s into the sea, and not by poaching its people, and Fisher would seem to want a fresh start, based on his recent front office changes.

But there’s one notion that doesn’t actually touch this story directly, and it is this. If Fisher is thinking of changing the baseball operation as he has the rest of the hierarchy, it would be an indication that intends to keep the A’s rather than sell them, at least any time soon. There would be no value in making such dramatic changes only to have a new owner come in and make them again.

So maybe those are the whispers that should be whispered – that the A’s makeover leads to an idea that they are not longing for the badlands of Portland or Charlotte after all. If that is the case, that would be a bigger development than the notion that they could conceivably raid the bully across the bridge for baseball talent.