(Photo courtesy of Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics)
I took my Mom with me to every game last year. I wrote her initials near home plate before I stepped in to the batters box, and I went out there playing in her memory.
She was definitely with me when I made my first of two comebacks. That actually came not against the Red Sox, but against the Astros...It was two days after my Mom's passing, and as I stepped up to the plate I had players from both teams give me a big round of applause. I stepped back out of the box and acknowledged the gesture, as well as the standing ovation from the fans.
I stepped back in and knocked a single to right, which was classic me. Just make good contact and head over to first.
The at-bat against the Red Sox was a totally different scenario.
I only missed one game between my Mom's passing and the Astros game, but I took four games off to be with my family for the Celebration of Life. My at-bat against the Red Sox would be the first one since the funeral.
Since I was already behind 0-2, I just knew that I didn't want to take Strike 3 looking. The pitch was low and inside, but it was going to get just enough of the corner to maybe get a strike call, so I swung away. And when I made contact, the ball began to soar. And soar. Towards the iconic Green Monster and Citgo sign. And as the ball began to descend, it became apparent that this ball wasn't going to be caught. In fact, it wasn't even going to stay in the stadium.
It flew out of the entire park and towards Landsdowne Street.
As I rounded the bases, I could feel the hairs on my neck stand straight up. I touched home plate and tapped my heart as I looked up to the sky. I knew my Mom was with me in that moment. I knew it. I had no business hitting that home run, but I know she was looking out for me.
I never thought I would see that ball again, but one random day I got a call from the A's. A fan traveling to Boston for a conference found the ball in the street, and told some of his friends about it. His friends had heard about my story, and as they put the dates together, they realized he had the ball from my home run!
He called the A's so he could give me the ball, and during one of our road trips to Detroit I was able to meet up with him. Having that ball in my possession means so much to me.
This year has seen things return to normal, in a good way. I don't feel guilty about being happy or having fun, and I'm not as emotional at the plate as I was last year. I don't write my Mom's initials there this season, just because I realized that in order for me to perform, I need to shut the emotions off for a few minutes. If you knew my Mom, and the way she supported my career, you'd know that she would be totally okay with that.
But as normal as things are starting to feel, I'm also beginning one of the coolest adventures of my life. I got married over this past offseason to Carrie, and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with her.
I still remember the day I met Carrie. When she walked in the room, and I looked over and saw her, it was overpowering emotion. I don't know if it was love at first site, but I saw that this person was special, and I wasn't wrong. My Mom recognized something too, because when she met Carrie, she was about as excited as I was.
Carrie and I had our ceremony in Napa before we honeymooned in Bora Bora and New Zealand. One was pure relaxation on the beach, while New Zealand had just about everything you could offer.
I hope that when people read my story, they realize that things do get better. Even when we are struggling, God still loves us and is still looking out for us. You just need to stick with Him before you get to see that other side.
In a way, it only seems fitting that my Mom died of Lou Gehrig's Disease. Despite watching his body deteriorate, Lou also kept his positive attitude. As great as his career was, he is probably better known for his speech, where he says "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."
As much as I admire Lou Gehrig's approach, I don't know if he was the luckiest man. You see, he never got to meet Carrie.
And he never got to know Gretchen Piscotty.
Stephen Piscotty, # 25
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