It’s pretty cool to be able to stand and tell someone that you’re living out the dream you’ve had since you were just a young little thing, playing wiffle ball in the backyard. Just ask Stephen Piscotty.
He’ll tell you that it was his grandfather who sparked an interest in baseball, way back when Stephen was just three or four years old. Games of wiffle ball with grandpa and the two younger Piscotty boys turned more competitive and serious as high school came fast. But, it was that time in the backyard that planted the seed of a dream.
Things turned more serious when Piscotty realized that this game that he’d grown to love could pay off in a big way.
“At the time, it was like, ‘Oh, wow. I could get college paid for,'” Piscotty recalled. “That seemed to be a pretty cool thing for me and my family. So that’s when it first kind of dawned on me that I might have a career in this.”
So, his career began. At Stanford, Piscotty posted a career .340 batting average on his way to two first team All-Pac 12 teams as a three-year starter. Not a bad way to attract some attention from the next level. But for Piscotty, he was just doing what he does best.
“I just kept playing like I normally played,” he said, adding “luckily things turned out pretty good.”
While his Stanford team was in the middle of a playoff race, the Piscotty family was preparing for the possibility of Stephen taking the next step in his dream — it was draft time. And there were high hopes of hearing Stephen’s name called early.
“Up until that, it was pretty stressful, I’m not going to lie,” Piscotty said. “There was a lot of anticipation going in. I was at Stanford, I went home to share the moment with my family, had a couple friends over. During the draft, there was a lot of anticipation, and as soon as they called my name it was just utter relief, and joy, and just excitement. It was a pretty cool moment and I was glad I was able to share it with my family.”
As predicted, Stephen was selected early: the Cardinals selected Piscotty with the 36th overall pick in the 2012 supplementary draft.
So, the dream continued. And it brought Piscotty to the Quad Cities (by way of St. Louis where he signed his official contract). Since joining the River Bandits, he has played in 24 games and is hitting .281 with 25 hits, including 10 doubles and a home run.
Last night, the River Bandits snapped a six-game losing streak, thanks in large part to a 3-for-4 effort from Piscotty that backed a solid pitching outing in a 5-1 win.
It took some time, though, to settle in and adjust to the grind of playing every day. As luck would have it, though, Piscotty had some familiar help. Former Stanford teammate Colin Walsh is in the midst of a strong season for the Bandits, too. Having a familiar face may just have helped Piscotty settle in a little easier.
“That was just awesome,” Piscotty said. “I don’t know how to explain it. He helped me a lot, just getting a place, telling me the ins and outs of the team. He helped me a tremendous amount. I’m really thankful that he was here. It’s just kind of lucky that it turned out that way, but he helped me a ton.”
It helps, too, that the River Bandits team as a whole has a great sense of clubhouse chemistry.
“It’s just a good group of guys,” Piscotty said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie, joking around, but also, when it’s game time, it’s time to win a ballgame … I’ve learned a lot playing next to [Matt] Williams and Walsh and all those guys. That’s the biggest thing, I think, playing with this team is learning from them as well as the coaches.”
It’s all a learning game at this stage. With the long-term goal being playing in St. Louis, it’s a matter of Piscotty playing his game, and improving every step of the way. And that is exactly what he says Cardinal Nation will see.
“I don’t consider myself a real flashy player, but my thing is just trying to stay consistent, go up there and have good quality at bats, play solid defense, just be an all-around consistent player,” Piscotty said. “I’m going to try to start hitting more home runs and all that stuff, but right now I’m just going to play how I’ve always played and hopefully the fans will enjoy that.”
Speaking of fans …
“The Quad Cities has been awesome,” he said, lighting up as he spoke about the local support. “I didn’t expect there to be so many fans. It’s been a pretty cool environment to play at every night. The fans always come down to the dugout, [we] talk to them for a little bit, get to know them a little bit, so it’s been cool. They’re really supportive and it’s really cool to see.”
The Quad Cities is just another step on an already remarkable journey. For Piscotty, all those little steps are adding up fast. He’s well on his way to living out the dream that began in a backyard with a wiffle ball.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was young, and now I’m here doing it.”
Yes, I’d say that’s pretty cool.
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.