Mom keeps baseball-crazy Piscotty family grounded

Cardinals outfielder, his two younger brothers, dad can be consumed by game

May 4th, 2016

ST. LOUIS -- It's a Saturday night at the Pleasanton, Calif., home of Gretchen and Michael Piscotty, who are beginning to unwind after another day spent at the ballpark.

They had just driven the 40 minutes back to their home from Moraga, where the youngest of their three sons is a sophomore infielder for the St. Mary's Gaels. They stayed around after the game to take him and his friends out to dinner, and they would be returning again the following day for the rubber game of the series. There's a family tailgate to attend, as well.

In between, the Piscotty parents will cue up highlights of Stephen, their eldest son, who they just traveled to see in San Diego the previous weekend. Rehashing the schedule is exhausting. Imagine living it.

"That's why I go to work on Monday," Gretchen laughs. "I go to work to rest."

:: Mother's Day 2016 ::

It's a life that the matriarch of the Piscotty family never envisioned, an unexpected reality for a woman who was never all that interested in baseball. That was Michael's thing, which he first passed down to Stephen, then to Nick and finally on to Austin. Gretchen, by default, inherited it, finding herself shuttling the boys to practices and games almost daily.

Saturdays would often be the most consuming. After sitting through each of her son's games, Gretchen would be lured into joining the boys for an evening drive into Oakland, where they would then attend an A's game.

"Just like any parent, any mom, you want to support your kids in whatever activities bring them joy," she said. "It was my thing, because it was their thing. But I also had to look a little harder to find something that made me tick."

Gretchen has her own interests -- from volleyball, which she played in high school, to horseback riding, which she picked up while Stephen was in high school so that she could guarantee herself at least one hour per week away from the ballfield.

She's not all that into the game's X's and O's -- consider that she asked for and received the book "Baseball for Dummies" as a Christmas gift this past year -- but found it to be her place to bring balance to a family so often consumed by a game.

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"Just because she didn't always understand the game didn't mean she didn't enjoy coming to all our games," said Stephen. "I feel like myself and my brothers were very, very competitive, and we took losing and not doing well pretty hard. She would kind of prop us back up."

Gretchen describes Stephen as the shiest of her three sons -- ironic, she admits, given that he now makes his living in front of an audience. She noticed his analytical side early, and she appreciated Stephen's drive to pursue a college education even as others encouraged him to go all-in on baseball.

She took particular joy in having Stephen around this past winter, as he moved back into his childhood home during the offseason. Seeing him take to cooking and guitar playing and video gaming with old friends assured Gretchen that baseball hadn't become all-consuming.

"That's been my role -- to let them know there is more to life than just baseball," Gretchen said. "I provide a diversion when one is needed, or focus the attention on something else. I try to change the channel of his focus every now and again, because he is plenty focused all on his own."

Gretchen sees Stephen plenty during the season, too. She and Michael made it a point to attend this year's home opener in St. Louis, and they will meet Stephen on the road routinely during the year. They were in the stands last July, when Stephen made his Major League debut, mom wearing the Cardinals gear that she had been carrying around with her for weeks.

"It was kind of like waiting to have a baby," she said. "You know it's coming. You just don't know when. You have that bag packed."

It was a moment, Stephen said, that was meant to be shared with mom, the one who had always kept him on track.

"She squeezed me so tight, I thought I was going to pop," said Stephen. "It was a special moment, just on so many levels. For her to see it and be there and experience it with me meant a lot. I can't even count how many hours she spent over the years watching me work toward that goal."