On Sunday, March 11th, new A’s RFer Stephen Piscotty was kind enough to spend a few minutes chatting with me about his time growing up as an A’s fan, as well as at Stanford, where on the field he was a student of Mark Marquess’ hitting philosophy and in the classroom he chose an unusual major. Enjoy...
Nico: I had a couple things I wanted to check in about. One was, just knowing that you grew up in the Oakland area, as grew up as an A’s fan, I was trying to figure out what era you grew up in and who were the players that you looked up to and followed as a fan.
Piscotty: Yeah, I definitely followed McGwire and Canseco early, and then there was the “Big 3” of Hudson, Mulder, and Zito, Tejada, Giambi. So I’ve seen a lot of great players.
Nico: Now, I’m guessing that when you were growing up as a young athlete you probably weren’t a right-fielder yet if you were a good athlete, right? (“Correct.”) So, what position were you playing and who were you looking up to thinking that was your position?
Piscotty: I never really entirely was that way in terms of looking up to guys at a position. I definitely played some shortstop, I also liked to pitch. One of my favorites was Tim Hudson, and obviously I’m not really a pitcher but he was a joy to watch. And Eric Chavez was also an excellent defender and hitter, it was always good watching him. It’s hard to draw the similarities but there were a lot guys I could look up to.
Nico: What qualities drew you to a player?
Piscotty: Guys who looked like they were giving it all they had, laying it all out for the team. There were so many good examples, it was awesome – I spent a lot of my childhood at the Coliseum.
Nico: Where’d you sit?
Piscotty: (proudly) 220! Right up there.
Nico: So fast-forwarding now to Stanford, a couple things I was interested in about your time at Stanford…One, they’re known for preaching a certain kind of a swing that’s more “all fields,” contact based, less “launch angle” based. What was your experience with that, as far as how it impacted you as a hitter then, you as a hitter in the minors, you as a hitter now?
Piscotty: I think it was a great thing for me to get in there – you know they didn’t really tinker with my swing too much, and I’ve always been a line drive, gap to gap hitter, and was able to have a lot of success there hitting that way. So I just kind of reinforced that when I got to pro ball, started messing around a bit with trying to hit for more power, and that came with mixed results – I kind of lost some consistency that I normally had. So I like to be somewhere in between those two.
Nico: Do you have an explanation – there are really differences between 2016 and 2017 with the Cardinals in terms of slugging, power. Do you have an explanation of the difference?
Piscotty: Yeah, my swing got a little long and I wasn’t putting balls in play that I normally did. The great thing about last year was that because I wasn’t putting balls in play I was learning how and finding the ability to work walks and get on base. I think my average was down several points (from .273 to .235) but my on base was right around the same (from .343 to .342). So that’s one thing that I’m taking away from last season that I’m really going to try to continue on with. Hitting’s one of those things that can kind of be tough for a while, but when you go through those spells you learn a lot about your swing and who you are as a hitter.
Nico: And it sounds like “line to line, gap to gap” is more what you think A’s fans should expect you to be looking for versus “I want to hit for more power/homeruns”?
Piscotty: Yeah, I just want to be myself as a hitter, and I’ve shown the ability to hit homeruns and obviously I would like to, but I’m not going to make that my sole focus this year. I’m just going to try to hit the ball hard and have good at bats – we have so many good guys in this lineup that I’m going to try really hard to get on base, and I think we’ll have a lot of opportunities to score runs throughout the game.
Nico: The other thing that stood out to me from your time at Stanford was your major, which is actually complicated enough that I didn’t memorize it. (Piscotty laughs) Could you describe it, and also what applications it has to careers?
Piscotty: Yeah, it’s called “Atmosphere & Energy Engineering” and it’s all about solar power, wind power, anything that’s kind of “clean and green” as far as energy and those sort of technologies. It was really interesting to learn about, and I think the field is growing so rapidly that I don’t know where I would fit in if I were to go join that work force. I’d probably have to go back to school, (because) I think the technologies have already changed since I’ve been there. Things are moving so fast, but it’s definitely something I try to keep up with and I’m still fairly interested in it.
Nico: What piqued your interest? It’s a very specific major to choose.
Piscotty: Yeah, I didn’t really know what I wanted to study when I went to Stanford, and this one really caught my eye and the more I kept learning about it the more I was realizing how interested in it I was. I felt like I was able to give it my all and I wasn’t having to battle those classes, they were more fun than tough.
Nico: Do you see that – I mean obviously every baseball career ends and you’re still at working age – do you see that still as a career path?
Piscotty: Absolutely, yeah, and I don’t know how I would fit in. I’d probably have to get some more schooling to get caught back up, but … yeah you never know.
Nico: My last question is more on the “who you are”… what is it you would like fans to know about you?
Piscotty: Just that I try to be hard working, keep my nose down for the most part, but I’m going to give it all I have and I love this team, I love this city, so I’m just so happy to be here, I’m thrilled. I’m just really excited for the season to get going and to play at the Coliseum, I can’t wait.
Nico: On a young team, but you’re brand new to the team, do you see yourself as a leader or do you see yourself as a new guy?
Piscotty: Maybe a little of both. It’s definitely a young team, and I’m still a young player. I mean, I’ve only had 2.5 years of service, so I’m still learning. It’s one of those things that there are veteran presences in this locker room that I can tap into. I’m just going to try to lead by example best I can, and play the game the right way.
The next day, clearly inspired by the chance to interview with an internet blogger whose name he probably forgot 5 minutes later, Piscotty crushed his second Cactus League HR and the world rejoiced. As of this writing, Piscotty’s spring stats stand at .261/.320/.565.
Which part of this interview interested you the most?
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Stephen Piscotty, young A’s fan
Piscotty’s views on Stanford’s hitting philosophy and how it impacted him
Piscotty’s Atmosphere & Energy Engineering major
All 3 were equally great
I want 5 minutes of my life back