Stephen Piscotty’s devotion to finding a cure for Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and his grace in handling his mother’s decline and death from ALS, is the reason he’s being honored Thursday by Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Two disparate diseases, but the same yearning to end the suffering they cause. Piscotty, the Oakland A’s outfielder who is this year’s winner of the prestigious “Hutch Award,” feels a kinship with those fighting to end cancer.
“We want to end these terrible diseases affecting so many families,” he said in a phone interview. “Having gone through all this, I have a greater appreciation for these organizations and the work they’re putting in. I feel a special bond.”
Piscotty, 28, won’t be able to attend the ceremony while rehabbing a knee injury in Oakland. And Piscotty wasn’t on the A’s recent trip to play the Mariners, when he was to have been recognized before a Sunday game at T-Mobile Park. But his father Michael will be on hand at T-Mobile Park for the ceremony, and Piscotty will make a video acceptance. Former Hutch Award winner Jim Abbott is the keynote speaker.
Gretchen Piscotty was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the dreaded neuromuscular disorder also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, in May 2017.
Stephen Piscotty was playing for the Cardinals at the time and was understandably devastated. He felt helpless being so far away from his family in Pleasanton, California, located 30 miles southeast of Oakland. In January 2018, the Cardinals worked out a trade that sent Piscotty to the A’s. While the trade had sound baseball reasons, the Cardinals were also cognizant of allowing Piscotty to be closer to his mom.
He remains eternally grateful for the opportunity that trade provided to give support and comfort to his mother before her death in May 2018 at age 55. He lived at home, along with his parents and younger brothers Nick and Austin.
“It was so incredibly important to be home,” he said. “Unfortunately, with my mom’s diagnosis, her progression was incredibly fast. But I was able to cherish those last few months and help the family through a real tough time. It was chaos, to be honest. I can’t imagine being 2,000 miles away.
“It was so incredible what the Cardinals and A’s did. Hopefully it sets a precedent for situations like this in the future.”
Piscotty says he’s “very proud” of how the family packed in vacations, road trips and other family-centered events with his mother.
“We cherished every moment we had up to the day Mom passed,” he said. “We were always there, always around her. While she might not have been able to speak, she could feel that comfort of us around. I got pretty good at reading her facial expressions. We could have a conversation even if she couldn’t speak.”
The Hutch Award goes to the major-leaguer who best represents the honor, courage and dedication of Seattle native Fred Hutchinson, a former major-league pitcher and manager who died of cancer at age 45.
His brother, Seattle surgeon Bill Hutchinson, founded the Hutchinson Center, and in 1965 the Hutch Award was established. Among past winners are 14 Hall of Famers, most recently Craig Biggio and Trevor Hoffman. Fred Hutchinson would have turned 100 on Aug. 12.
Piscotty didn’t have much knowledge of the Hutch Award before he was named as the latest winner in May. He did some research and was blown away by names such as Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski, Lou Brock, George Brett and Willie McCovey on the winner’s list.
“It’s a really cool thing for myself and our family, especially going through such a tough time in the previous year,” he said. “It’s something positive to reflect on.”
The Piscotty family has started the ALS Cure Project to fund research. The family held its first fundraising gala Monday night, which was a big success. The Piscottys have been overwhelmed by the support from players around the major leagues, including generous donations by major-leaguers Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and numerous others.
“Our mission is to find a cure,” he said. “My mom, when she was ill, was always very open to people who wanted to come in and document her situation. She felt if we could raise awareness, the day would come when others would not have to suffer. I’m trying hard to carry that torch and continue the attitude she had.
“It’s tough. It’s not an easy problem. There’s a lot to it. But all you can do is try.”