The Briefing Room

General Category => Sports/Entertainment/Arts => Topic started by: EasyAce on May 16, 2018, 11:59:10 AM

Title: This blast was for Mom
Post by: EasyAce on May 16, 2018, 11:59:10 AM
By Yours Truly

Stephen Piscotty with his hand over
his heart after rounding third, when
he hit one out in Boston his first time
up after mourning his mother's death.

This past winter, Stephen Piscotty and his family got a gift when the Cardinals traded the outfielder to the Athletics in order to let him play closer to his ALS-stricken mother, Gretchen. He'd taken time off last season to be with her a spell after she received the diagnosis, and it may have affected his play the rest of the season when he returned.

On 6 May, Gretchen Piscotty lost the battle at age 55, almost exactly a year after she was diagnosed. Her son first took one day off, then came back and ripped a liner up the pipe for a base hit his first time up off the Astros' Lance McCullers. McCullers was kind enough to step off the mound and let Piscotty savour a loud ovation A's fans poured onto him in sympathy.

"I know this game in general can be emotion," McCullers tweeted after the game, "and I can only imagine what he was going through today. I wanted to give him some time to come up and have the fans recognise him. I just wanted that moment to be his."

Piscotty then took bereavement leave to join his family in saying goodbye to his mother, returning to the A's in Boston Tuesday night, two days after his first Mother's Day without her.

Batting for the first time in the top of the second, with one out and the A's up 2-0 thanks to a two-run double by Matt Chapman in the first, Piscotty fell behind 0-2 against Eduardo Rodriguez. Rodriguez served him a slider down and in. And Piscotty tore it into the Green Monster seats, taking a none-too-slow jog around the bases and putting his right hand over his heart as he turned toward home plate to finish the circuit. Just as he'd done after his hit off McCullers following the news that his mother was gone.

"Coming around third," he said after the game, "I just immediately started thinking about my mom and kind of put my hand over my chest like she would do." As he'd told the San Jose Mercury News a week earlier, it was Gretchen Piscotty's way of telling her son, her husband, her family, that she loved them, when speaking became difficult to impossible as she fought the too-fast-advancing killer long co-named for Yankee legend Lou Gehrig.

Piscotty was swarmed by teammates when he returned to the dugout. "To hit a home run in his first at-bat [back] like that," said manager Bob Melvin, "there's something in the air. Probably Gretchen."

It was a staggering moment for an outfielder who'd actually been given the option---after four games missed to mourn the loss of his mother while joining his family to celebrate her life---to take Tuesday off after a red-eye flight from Oakland to Boston. Piscotty politely declined the option, playing as his manager described, "on little sleep and a lot of adrenaline."

The blast pushed the A's closer to the 5-3 win they'd end up banking, impressing the Red Sox, who've now lost four out of five to the A's on the season and who've been struggling a bit of late following their rip-roaring season opening. "We haven't been able to put them away," Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters after the game. "They're young and it seems like they're turning a corner. Whatever they're doing over there is pretty good."

Gretchen Piscotty's death struck a nerve around baseball itself, since it was known last winter that the Cardinals were willing to deal her son closer to home if the deal was right for them. Practically the moment her death was made public, the family established a fund to raise $100,000 in her name toward ALS research, and Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish---turning his own struggles aside for a moment---wrote a check for $10,000 for the fund.

Piscotty and the A's set up a concurrent YouCaring fund in her memory, also aimed at ALS research, with the A's themselves agreeing to match up to $50,000.

After last season ended, Piscotty moved into his family's home---which his father, Mike, hustled to remodel in order to accommodate his wife's newly-diagnosed condition (the speed with which it advanced convinced her she may have had the disease far longer)---and took particular pleasure in being his mother's chauffeur, driving her and her friends around the region in an RV fitted with a special wheelchair lift.

She'd once savoured her me-time when her husband and sons went to A's games as they were growing up. Mike Piscotty remains a lifelong season-ticket holder and admits he rooted for the A's even against the Cardinals, "except for one guy." Now, his wife savoured having her family close and kind to her, especially her eldest son, who fell into the habit of ending nightly sessions with his guitar for her by playing "Amazing Grace," the song she played on a music box against her stomach when she was pregnant with him.

"She thought I could hear it," Piscotty told the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser after he was traded to the A's. "Amazingly, that's one of my favourite songs. I've always loved it." Once, Piscotty and a high school buddy in the Giants' minor league system, Will LaMarche, strapped on their guitars for a duet on the song.

"I'm tearing up thinking about it," LaMarche told the Chronicle. "Gretchen put her iPad down and listened to Stephen take the lead, and I could sense the mother-son connection there, I just could feel that bond."

He should have been in Fenway Park Tuesday night. He'd have seen that bond hammered home with an exclamation point the moment Piscotty's drive landed in the Monster seats.

"It's been an emotional week," Piscotty admitted. "I've been a little cried out, so I didn't tear up or anything." He didn't have to. The hand over his heart as he jogged toward the plate almost said more than the home run did.

Gretchen Piscotty with son Stephen, neither
imagining then that he'd eventually become an
Oakland Athletic himself.

@Polly Ticks
@Cyber Liberty
@Mom MD