Athletics

How Jake Diekman gave 15-year-old best day of his life at A's-Giants game

How Jake Diekman gave 15-year-old best day of his life at A's-Giants game

OAKLAND -- Jake Diekman was diagnosed with Ulcerative colitis at 10 years old, but that didn't stop him from achieving his dream of reaching the major leagues.

Now the A's reliever wants to help others who suffer from Inflammatory bowel disease, which can include Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. In 2017, Diekman and his wife Amanda created the Gut It Out Foundation.

"I was going through the first of three surgeries to have my colon removed, so we created the Gut It Out Foundation to support people with IBD, Crohn’s disease, and Ulcerative colitis, and just give them some sort of a resource," Diekman told NBC Sports California.

This weekend, Diekman hosted 15-year-old Nathan Nichols at the A's-Giants game. Nichols suffers from IBD himself and won the Gut It Out Foundation's VIP Experience for being the top fundraiser.

Diekman flew Nichols and his mother out from Lenexa, Kansas for several incredible experiences, including a tour of Alcatraz on Friday, dinner with Diekman and his wife, and a conversation and game of catch with Diekman on the Coliseum field before Saturday's game.

"It's been amazing," Nichols said. "Best day of my life by far. ... (Diekman) is just a great guy. I love talking to him."

Nichols actually first connected with Diekman in Kansas City when the hard-throwing left-hander was still a member of the Royals. Diekman encouraged Nichols to join his foundation and it has worked out wonderfully for both parties.

"It's great," Diekman said. "He's everything that we created a foundation for. If bringing him out here can influence to help when he grows up and influence others, then that's perfect."

The feeling is certainly mutual. A high school pitcher himself, Nichols draws inspiration from Diekman's story.

"A lot of inspiration," Nichols emphasized. "I'm a pitcher, he's a pitcher. He has IBD, I have IBD. A lot of similarities between us and I think that's awesome."

After playing catch and getting some tips from Diekman, Nichols and his mother got to stay on the field to watch batting practice, followed by tickets to the game. 

[RELATED: One bad game? Why A's not worried by bullpen implosion]

"Playing catch on the field (was my favorite part)," Nichols said. "It's not every day you play catch with an MLB pitcher. It's super cool."

Added Diekman: "It makes you feel really good. I know what it's like to have it when you're younger. You think it's a pretty big disability. You don't really know (if you're going to need surgery). You just want to be normal. So if they can look up to me in any aspect and say, 'Well he's pretty normal and doing what he loves,' that's the biggest thing."

A's Stephen Piscotty to honor father Mike for 'Coaching Corps' Awards

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A's Stephen Piscotty to honor father Mike for 'Coaching Corps' Awards

Stephen Piscotty spends his days roaming the outfield for the A's. But long before he sported the green and gold, he was a little leaguer being coached by his dad, Mike. 

"He had a little bit of that military-style -- very serious, regimented coaching style which was great for us kids growing up, Stephen said about Mike to NBC Sports California. "There was a time to have fun, but there was a time to be serious. He had a good way of teaching young kids how to play."

Stephen will honor his dad Thursday night during the sixth annual "Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards" presented by Levi's, where top Bay Area athletes honor influential coaches and mentors.

Stephen would play up a level throughout his playing career, beginning with little league. And the way he was coached by his dad is something he still uses to this day.

Mike, at times, would be the manager of three different teams for each of his sons -- that meant more than just switching hats and jerseys. 

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Home sweet home! Go A’s!

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His kids (all 15 of them if you counted his sons and the kids on the team) would come over, eat pizza and watch "The Sandlot" -- all the essentials you need for a successful little league season.

"Baseball gave me a platform to teach character -- just like you're teaching character to your children," Mike told NBC Sports California. "Things are going to go great and there's going to be controversy at times."

"Baseball gave me the opportunity to parent, just like you would coaching," Mike said.

Having his dad as a coach was all Stephen knew. So much so, when Mike wasn't around, it was "weird."

The weirdness, if you will, became apparent when Stephen went to college.

"That's where things really changed because he's not there every day and I'm around college coaches that know a fair amount," Stephen said. "I want to be very open to coaching and trying those things, but he's not there to go through it with me."

But dad was watching from afar. 

"That parenting approach I would take with my boys was pretty much the same with coaching," Mike said. "It was easy for me to do that because it was just an extension of my home to the field."

"Part of it is a success as an individual. Developing your skills, being able to have a great game, making a great play, having a fantastic hit or something and being able to enjoy that."

Mike believed that isn't something you can learn on your own, he believes it's something he helped Stephen with.

"[Stephen] reveled in it."

Turning his coaching hat into being simply being a dad and a supporter doesn't change the way Mike views the game. He still notices things. That's what happens when you've coached for as long as he has. 

Mike then detailed the moment he got the call that Stephen would officially be a Major League baseball player. 

"The emotions are just incredible," Mike said. "Very fulfilling and really a lot of fun. You can really enjoy it, I've learned."

As Mike watches Stephen on the big league diamond, he is overcome with memories of the days where they would use a wiffle ball bat in the backyard. 

"All those days we would spend at the field -- it's very satisfying," Mike said. "But life keeps going on. It's a great moment, but now that set up more great moments."

"Life's a journey. You don't ever stop coaching. You're always mentoring, you're always coaching. Baseball gave me the opportunity to parent, just like you would coaching."

[RELATED: Three A's prospects make Baseball America's top 100 list]

And no matter where he goes, Stephen knows his dad was there from the very beginning.

"He was my first coach, and he got me off to a tremendous start and developed the passion and love I have for the game," Stephen explained. "That's why I'm choosing to honor him."

You can donate to the "Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards," here

“Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards” presented by Levi’s airs Tuesday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area

Three A's prospects named to Baseball America's top 100 for 2020 season

Three A's prospects named to Baseball America's top 100 for 2020 season

The A's have one of MLB's best young cores in third baseman Matt Chapman, shortstop Marcus Semien and first baseman Matt Olson. Add in pitchers Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas and it's clear why this team keeps knocking on the door as a contender. 

The future for Oakland already is here, too. That sentiment was reinforced Wednesday when Baseball America released its latest list of their top 100 prospects before the 2020 season. 

Pitchers Jesus Luzardo (nine) and A.J. Puk (21), and catcher Sean Murphy (41) all made the list. They also all made their major league debuts last season. 

Luzardo is Baseball America's No. 2 left-handed pitching prospect behind only MacKenzie Gore (six) of the San Diego Padres. Puk is the website's fourth-best lefty, three spots higher than MLB Pipeline ranked him. 

Murphy comes in as the third-highest ranked catcher, behind Giants prospect Joey Bart. As someone whose defense stands out, he will be a key factor in Luzardo and Puk's development on a big league mound. 

Luzardo, 22, might wind up being the A's ace as soon as this upcoming season. Puk, who will turn 25 in April, isn't too far behind. Both pitchers are hard-throwing southpaws who have dirty offspeed pitches. 

[RELATED: Former Cal pitcher rises up A's top 10 prospect rankings]

Murphy, who hit four homers in just 20 games for the A's last year, likely will be Oakland's Opening Day catcher this year. He has Gold Glove potential behind the plate and is continuing to improve as a hitter. 

The A's already have their Big Three on offense in Chapman, Olson and Semien. The next trio already has arrived, and they're here to stay.