PLEASANTON — Fulfilling a lifelong dream sometimes comes with complications. Just ask the Piscotty family.
Fantasy met reality in Pleasanton Thursday when Stephen Piscotty was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to his hometown A’s, the team he’s rooted for since he met Mark McGwire as a 5-year-old.
The news thrilled coaches and teachers at Amador Valley High who remember when the unassuming Piscotty carried the unofficial title of “the best hitter in the East Bay.” But circumstances overshadowed what should have been a purely joyous day for the Piscottys. “Bittersweet” was a word Stephen and both of his parents used to describe the deal.
Having Stephen back home and wearing their beloved green and gold is almost as much of a blessing for the Piscottys as it is just having their tight-knit family back together. That’s because his mom, Gretchen, has been battling ALS since May.
Since her diagnosis, Gretchen and the family have been humbled by the overwhelming compassion and support shown by the Cardinals, as well as fans and friends from St. Louis to the East Bay.
“I wish I didn’t need all of their support, but it’s nice to have it,” Gretchen said.
Her debilitating illness was one of the factors that led to St. Louis clearing some outfield surplus by trading their 26-year-old for a pair of A’s prospects so Gretchen’s middle son could be back near his mom.
“I’m sure the Cardinals could have sent him to a lot of different places and they chose one that’s helpful to our family,” said Piscotty’s father, Mike, who admitted to some trepidation as he scoured the web for recent trade rumors involving his son. “I’m grateful for both organizations.”
“We’re thrilled he’s with the team he grew up with, but we loved being with the Cardinals,” he added. “The people there are just amazing. They made us feel like family. They call it baseball heaven and it’s pretty dang close to that.”
Stephen, who bought a home near St. Louis five months ago but stays with his parents during the offseason, was golfing at Pebble Beach Thursday morning when he got word of the trade. He immediately texted his dad.
“He told me it’s a little bittersweet but that he’s really excited about being with the home team,” Mike said. “He said it’s a dream come true. He’s pretty excited.”
Gretchen was also conflicted after finding out about the deal with life-altering ramifications.
“I guess I would say it was bittersweet,” she said. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure how to feel about it. The Cardinals have been really good to Stephen and good to us. We made a lot of friends there. I feel like one of the luckiest people to have been able to experience their hospitality. I still have immense gratitude that they drafted Stephen back in June 2012.
“But then my phone just blew up with congratulations that he was coming home,” Gretchen added. “I thought about how it will be easier for all of our friends and family to come see him play. (And) it will be nice to not have to fly on a plane to go see him play. It will be nice to have him around and closer to home.”