WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Former Stanford standout Stephen Piscotty was at a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa last July after his Triple-A Memphis team had just finished a day game against the top Chicago Cubs' affiliate.
"The coach told me to meet him in the lobby and I went down there and he told me congratulations. 'You are going up.' That is kind of when it all started," said Piscotty, 25, describing when he was called up to the St. Louis Cardinals for the first time.
Piscotty, from Amador High and Pleasanton, called his parents with the news and then met the Cardinals in Chicago. His parents were able to be on hand as he made his big league debut against the White Sox on July 21, going 1-for-4.
The outfielder hit .305 with 15 doubles, seven homers and 39 RBI in 63 games with St. Louis at the end of last season.
"He has a consistent approach at the plate," said Mike Matheny, the St. Louis manager.
So far this season he is showing those numbers were no fluke. A first-round pick out of Stanford by the Cardinals in 2012, he has nearly bettered those numbers in his first 50 games with an average of .323 with 14 doubles, six homers, 62 hits and 30 RBI.
"I feel good about what I have been able to do," he said, standing his locker in the St. Louis clubhouse before a game in Washington. "I know there is a lot more to learn. As far as statistics, I am not a guy that is focused on that stuff.
"I feel there is more potential I am working toward," Piscotty added. "I feel you always should be working on something. I am continuing to work and take it day-by-day."
Piscotty ranks among the National League leaders in average, hits, runs and total bases following a 9-4 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
"He is very focused on improving," said St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak, sitting in the Cardinals' dugout in Washington. "Your expectations are high" for him.
A right-handed batter, Piscotty hit the first grand slam of his big league career here on May 27 when he went deep in the third inning against Max Scherzer of the Nationals in a 6-2 win. Scherzer threw two no-hitters last year and had fanned 20 batters in his previous start at home, May 11 against the Detroit Tigers.
"I like going up against the best," Piscotty said before the game. "It is like you have nothing to lose. It fires me up as a competitor to face those guys" such as Scherzer and former San Diego State star Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals.
Scherzer gave up his 15th homer of the year.
"A dumb pitch," Scherzer said of the slider to Piscotty.
"Including the at-bat before, he threw me four straight sliders," Piscotty said. "I'm just trying to get a good pitch over the middle of the plate, and I put a good swing on it."
Piscotty is one of several former Stanford standouts who have played in the majors this year, including Jason Castro (Houston), Jed Lowrie (Oakland), Drew Storen (Toronto) and Colin Walsh (Milwaukee), who was drafted by the Cardinals in 2010. Piscotty said he has kept in touch with several of them, including Walsh and Storen.
Piscotty has yet to face some National League pitchers, but he is careful not to go overboard with watching video.
"It is such a powerful resource. You have to be careful how much you read into it," he said. "A lot of the time you have react to the pitcher. I try to have a general idea. I never like to know what is coming. It messes me up. I like to react."
The California native grew up attending Stanford games. His uncle would take him or his father would take his Little League team to games at The Farm.
"It was like a dream come true," he said of playing for Stanford.
Now he is with the St. Louis Cardinals, who are annually contenders in the National League but are 26-24 after Saturday's game. Piscotty went 1-for-4.
"We have shown moments of really good baseball," Piscotty said. "It has been unfortunate; when the offense is on the pitching isn't; when the pitching is on the offense isn't. Things have not lined up so great. Some of that may be (bad) luck, honestly. We just have to try and play a little more consistent."
Piscotty is one of the few players in the majors with a college degree, and one day he hopes to use it.
"I don't know where I would fit in," said Piscotty, who is interested in solar power and wind power. "It is a new field and it is growing relatively fast. I would love to do something with (my degree). Hopefully when I am done playing the technology is really advanced."
CARDINAL NOTES: Former Stanford star Bob Boone, a catcher in the major leagues from 1972 to 1990, is a senior advisor to Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. Boone is frequently behind the cage during batting practice at Nationals Park . . . Former Stanford pitcher Erik Davis, who pitched for the Nationals in 2013, began this season at Triple-A Syracuse in the International League. The San Jose native was 3-1 with an ERA of 2.12 in his first 15 games out of the bullpen this season at Syracuse . . . Washington outfielder Michael A. Taylor is not related to former Stanford standout Michael Taylor, who was born in Maryland and retired after last playing in the majors in 2014 . . . Storen, traded by the Nationals in January to Toronto for outfielder Ben Revere, has struggled north of the border. A big leaguer since 2010 and former closer, he had an ERA of 7.80 in his first 18 outings out of the bullpen for the Jays . . . Stanford baseball products who had played in the Major Leagues this year, as of May 28, 2016, with first year in majors and their 2016 team: Juan Castro (2010, Houston); Jed Lowrie (2008, Oakland); Stephen Piscotty (2015, St. Louis); Drew Storen (2010, Toronto); Colin Walsh (2016, Milwaukee). Source: www.baseballreference.com.
(Editor's note: David Driver is a free-lance baseball writer and can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com)