SAN FRANCISCO -- Even though he grew up in nearby San Carlos, St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso admits never dreamed of playing for the Giants. He was an A's man all the way.
"As far back as remember," Descalso said Saturday. "My earliest memories of baseball are sitting over at the Coliseum watching guys like Rickey Henderson, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire play. From what my dad tells me, I'd sit there at 2 years old and watch the games."
What's more, the only cap Descalso ever wore with an "SF" on it was one representing St. Francis High in Mountain View, where he starred as a prep before moving on to U.C. Davis and eventually professional ball. He took merciless ribbing from friends growing up from friends who were all Giants fans, and now he has them right where he wants them.
"I've told them, 'You have a tough choice to make. You either have to root for the Giants and lose a friend or jump on the Cardinals' bandwagon,' " Descalso said at the Cardinals' AT&T Park workout in preparation for Sunday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
Descalso has pulled something of a Jeremy Lin as another heretofore unheralded Peninsula lad who has thrust himself into the national spotlight in the wake his Game 5 NLDS performance against the Washington Nationals. Descalso hit a seventh-inning home run as part of a game-long St. Louis rally from a 6-0 deficit and drove in the tying two runs in the ninth inning as the Cardinals stormed back for a 9-7 Cardinals victory.
"That's obviously the best game I've ever had on a stage like that," said the 2004 St. Francis grad. "That's what you dream about when you're a little kid, being in a spot like that."
Descalso said on his big ninth-inning hit, he had a good feeling he was going to get his pitch to hit early in the at-bat.
"(Washington closer Drew) Storen had the bases loaded there and I knew he wanted to come right after me because he'd just walked two guys," he said. "So I just told myself, `Look for a fastball to hit and don't be late.' I wanted to be aggressive in that spot, I made good contact and I was able to sneak it past (shortstop Ian) Desmond."
So now he's back in San Francisco for the NLCS, playing against a team he didn't exactly hate as a kid, but one that was definitely on the back burner.
"I spent my share of games at Candlestick, too," he said. "But my family had season tickets at the Coliseum and that's where I saw most of my baseball. I did catch a bunch of heat for being an A's fan growing up. But that was my team. I didn't root against the Giants. But it was definitely A's No. 1, Giants No. 2."
As for San Francisco itself, that's a different story. Descalso has a home in the Marina District and lives here in the offseason.
"I love this city, it's one of the best cities in the world," he said. "There's no better time to live here than when you're in your mid-20s."
The 25-year-old Descalso, in his second full season with the Cardinals, moved from third base to second this year after Ryan Theriot left the club to sign with the Giants in the offseason. He struggled for the better paet of the season offensively, hitting just .227 with four home runs.
"It's been up and down for me all year," he said. "I had to make a lot of adjustments in July and August but the last month or so I've been having a lot better at-bats, squaring the ball up a lot better. I was able to find some holes and then was able to drive the ball against the Nationals."
Despite Descalso's inconsistencies, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny lavished praise on his young infielder.
"He's just a ballplayer," Matheny said. "He's gritty. He's hard-nosed. He's smart. He plays instinctually. There were times he was having trouble getting his swing going, and he was pressing. But he really did figure out how to take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself, especially when (Rafael) Furcal went down. We needed somebody to take control of second base and Daniel did that. He's been just huge for us down the stretch here."
And now to play in the NLCS so close to where he grew up? Descalso said he couldn't have imagined it when he was playing the San Carlos Little League.
"You can dream it, right?" he said. "But I don't it ever sinks in as a reality until it happens. All I wanted to do as a kid was be a baseball player, and to find myself here on this stage, in my hometown of San Francisco, it's going to be fun."