ST. LOUIS -- For weeks, Gretchen Piscotty had been toting around a bag stuffed with the necessary apparel: a few Cardinals T-shirts and a jersey proudly displaying the family name.There was no way this mother of three was going to be caught unprepared whenever Stephen Piscotty phoned her with the
ST. LOUIS -- For weeks, Gretchen Piscotty had been toting around a bag stuffed with the necessary apparel: a few Cardinals T-shirts and a jersey proudly displaying the family name.
There was no way this mother of three was going to be caught unprepared whenever Stephen Piscotty phoned her with the news.
The preparation paid off, as Gretchen was in South Dakota attending a wedding when her eldest son called to share that he had been called up to the big leagues. The Piscottys immediately headed for Chicago, where, on a day in late July 2015, a proud mother finally had reason to unzip that duffle bag.
"It was kind of like waiting to have a baby," she told MLB.com a year later. "You know it's coming; you just don't know when. You have that bag packed. I was ready."
The family couldn't say the same, however, about the news that came earlier this year. A woman who had long brought needed perspective into a household with three baseball-crazed boys found herself forced to lean on others. The diagnosis came in late May. Gretchen had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a progressive and neurodegenerative disease. The fatality rate is 100 percent. The average survival time is three years.
At the Cardinals' insistence, Piscotty took a five-day leave of absence to return to California. He joined the rest of his close-knit family in their Pleasanton home, where Gretchen found comfort in watching Cardinals games alongside her son.
"It really puts life in perspective," Piscotty said when he returned to St. Louis.
Perspective abounds now, too, as Piscotty begins to digest a baseball future away from Busch Stadium. As part of the Cardinals' offseason makeover, the organization that drafted Piscotty in 2012 and signed him to a six-year extension in April dealt him to the A's on Thursday. The trade netted the Cardinals a pair of Minor League infielders in Jairo Munoz and Max Schrock. It landed Piscotty back home.
Gretchen no longer has to pack a bag to see her son.
"I thought, if I were to get traded, this is the absolute best option for me and my family," Piscotty said on Friday. "I think the best word that sums up a lot of our emotions is bittersweet. We're pretty emotionally tied and invested in [the Cardinals'] organization, so it's sad to kind of cut ties with that. But I think family comes first, obviously, and sometimes there are things more important than baseball.
"I think a lot of good's going to come out of it, so for that reason, I'm so excited to be in Oakland and be home."
• Lupica: Piscotty trade to A's both near & dear
The Cardinals didn't specifically set out this winter to get Piscotty closer to his mother, nor did the A's execute this trade solely for unselfish reasons. It was a baseball trade enhanced by personal circumstances, which was something both sides saw as an added benefit.
"I'm thrilled that this worked out for him on that level and can't imagine what it's like for him being away from home with those things going on," A's general manager David Forst said. "Hopefully it gives him and his family some peace of mind."
"You're never making a player trade simply for geographic or sentimental reasons," added John Mozeliak, Cardinals president of baseball operations. "It had to be something that made sense for us. There were certainly some opportunities to move him elsewhere, and when you're looking at how to break a tie, clearly [geography] did play into it."
It'll be less than a 30-mile drive from the Piscottys' home to the Oakland Coliseum, a setting that has already supplied the family with so many memories.
• For Piscotty, trade to A's a 'dream come true'
"We would have Little League [games] that day and then hit up the A's game that night," Gretchen said. "It was crazy. But they were happy, so it made me happy."
Piscotty, as he has every offseason, returned to live with his parents in Pleasanton this offseason, even though he just closed on a home in St. Louis five months ago. He's there to assist with his mother's care and to provide a welcome distraction. She enjoys talking to him about horses. He soothes her by playing the guitar.
"He's just my kid," Gretchen said. "He leaves his shoes in the middle of the floor. He dumps his bag over there, and I trip over it. I try to keep him balanced."
Now Piscotty can do the same.
• Mom keeps baseball-crazy Piscotty family grounded
He is hopeful that coming home will expedite his rebound from a down 2017 season that nudged him out of the Cardinals' long-term plans. But the impact of this move will go beyond the foul lines. Perhaps, Piscotty wonders, the improved proximity to his mom during her continued fight can also help ease her burden.
"Our family just feels so loved in a tough time," Piscotty said. "I think it will be easy and convenient and frequent for her to be able to come out and watch me play. That'll give me a lot of comfort and peace of mind knowing that I'm close, so hopefully that takes a little pressure off me and I can relax and play and have fun."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.