PITTSBURGH -- When Joe Musgrove was being evaluated for the 2011 MLB Draft, the Grossmont High School baseball field became a popular stop for scouts. So did the Musgrove house in El Cajon, Calif. More specifically, so did the Musgrove family’s dinner table.
Diane Musgrove, the emotional rock of their family, is a natural host and -- as scouts quickly learned -- a heck of a cook. All 30 teams sent representatives for in-home visits as part of their assessment of Musgrove, and he estimated half of them came back claiming they wanted to talk more. The follow-ups weren’t about nailing down signing bonuses, he figures, but rather the five-course Italian dinners served by Diane.
“It was all a bunch of BS,” Musgrove said, laughing. “They were coming over for another meal, because we hardly ever talked baseball the second time.”
Diane has always been a central part of her son’s baseball career. She stayed home to raise Musgrove and his siblings while her husband, Mark, worked tirelessly as a San Diego cop and private investigator. When Musgrove was a child, he’d play catch with Diane in the front yard. She was right by his side when he started traveling for tournaments at 7 years old.
“It’s always been our favorite thing to do. Everyone in my family loved baseball,” Musgrove said. “We all went. My mom couldn’t get enough of it.”
Diane still can’t get enough baseball, Musgrove says. Her understanding of strategy and the game’s most minute details grew right along with her son, who’s now 27 and in his third year with the Pirates after two seasons in Houston. Sometimes, Musgrove’s phone will buzz or ring and it’s his mom, telling him to turn on MLB Network to hear what Pedro Martinez or Sean Casey is saying.
“She doesn’t miss a beat,” he said. “She’s got MLB Network on all day. She’s on MLB.com reading updates and stuff. She’s all over Twitter. She just absolutely loves the game.”
Musgrove was always bigger and better than his competition as a kid, so he didn’t have too many poor games. But whenever he did, he knew his mom would be there as a confident, positive presence. These days, she understands that her hyper-competitive son sometimes needs time to cool off before she reaches out to offer her support.
And it’s always appreciated.
“She’s the mother, you know? There to comfort you and tell you it’s OK,” Musgrove said. “Regardless of what I do on the field, I’m still going to be able to go home and be loved by my parents. They’re not going to disown me for being bad. That always helped me be more comfortable and play the game the way that I do now.”
Beyond being his biggest fan, Musgrove said Diane has always been “the big strength” of his family. That was never more true than in 2008, when Mark was stricken by an autoimmune disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome and essentially paralyzed from the neck down for nearly two years.
Musgrove was 15 years old when his father became bedridden by his illness, and he’d sometimes spend nights tending to Mark in the hospital. His sisters, Terra and Marisa, were working, trying to bring in some money for the family. Diane was left to operate the family’s coffee shop, Caffé Adesso, and just about everything else in their lives.
“My mom was trying to run the coffee shop, play taxi for me, get me to and from school and practice, still be home every night to cook dinner for us kids, then bring the whole pot down to the hospital, and we’d sit in the hospital and would eat with my dad,” Musgrove said. “The operation that she had going, the schedule that she was running on every day, it was absurd and it wasn’t sustainable. But some way, she did it with never a single complaint.
“I can’t explain how much she did for us and continues to do for us. My dad got removed from the hospital after about six months, but he was in the front room of our house. It was pretty much set up like a hospital room. We had a hospital bed down there, IVs, monitors, everything. So our front room was a hospital bed for my dad for about a year, and she slept downstairs on the couch right next to him every single night and left her bedroom empty.
“If he needed anything, she was there for him. To this day, it hasn’t changed.”
Mark has recovered considerably in the 12 years since then, back to functioning on his own without daily care. He and Diane instilled a love for baseball in their son, and they’ve been able to watch Musgrove live out his dream on a Major League mound. The whole family was there on June 29, 2018, for instance, when Musgrove pitched in his hometown ballpark for the first time.
Musgrove’s family purchased Padres season tickets when he was growing up. They started off attending games at Qualcomm Stadium, and they’d venture down to Petco Park a few times a week after it opened in 2004. So it was beyond special for him to pitch seven scoreless innings in front of his parents and more than 100 other friends and family.
And yes, Musgrove said, you better believe Diane made the whole night run smoothly.
“She probably had 15 sausage sandwiches rolled up in a backpack that she brought in. That’s another Mama Musgrove trick, bringing a full-blown meal to a game,” he said, laughing. “Whenever you go somewhere, she’s got everything -- appetizers, peanuts, popcorn, backpacks full of water, sandwiches. She’s got it all.”