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By Kary Booher of the Springfield News-Leader

As you get older, you do appreciate the little things even more. Mom's home cooking. A gorgeous day on the lake fishing, bites or not.

And, in this business, it's seeing a minor leaguer stand in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse, look across the room and break into a grin. It's the moment when he realizes that, yes, he really is living the dream.

The starry-eyed look makes a trip to spring training well worth it. Well, OK, that and the tropical weather after a brutal Ozarks winter.

Over the years, Josh Kinney had that look, and then it was Allen Craig and then Kyle McClellan and before long it just became routine that a former Springfield Cardinal who was trying to make the club would stand in the clubhouse and marvel about the whole thing.

And yet it's still a pretty cool sight. Stephen Piscotty reminded me of that this week.

You may remember him from last summer in Springfield. Prospect hitter. Played right field. Even robbed some poor guy of a home run (check it out on YouTube) over the 330-foot sign at Hammons Field.

He's also the next big name to know, a prospect thumper in the general sense.

Well, a thumper whose locker stall — like those of other minor leaguers — sits near the showers and in front of the walkway to the food room. Basically, he needs binoculars to see Matt Holliday on the other side of the clubhouse.

And yet ask Piscotty if he walks out of here every day thinking, "Did I just do that?" and he grins, sort of the way a kid grins when he hears the jingle music of an ice cream truck easing through the neighborhood.

That's the look.

"I leave the clubhouse everyday and have those thoughts," Piscotty said. "It's cool. I think the biggest wow factor for me is I grew up watching Mark Ellis play in Oakland. And now I'm in the same hitting group with him the first day in spring training. It's humbling. It's awesome."

New to the clubhouse this year is a ping-pong table. The regulars have had some great morning battles.

However, it's got no place for a 23-year-old rookie-to-be, despite Pisctotty batting .324 this spring — with five extra-base hits among his 12 overall.

"We don't touch the table, us young guys don't," Piscotty said, still smiling. "That's for the veterans."

No, but you wonder if he'll be on the table next to it before long. That's where the regulars shoot the breeze and answer fan mail.

The last part, answering fan mail, is part of the notoriety that comes with being a Cardinal, and imagine that.

For many in this room, they're 20-some years old, pulling down a six- or seven-figure salary and some kid from, say, Marshfield writes in, asking for an autograph.

That's the cool part of the job, said Seth Maness, a reliever who was in Double-A Springfield just two years ago and reached St. Louis last summer.

"I had never done that growing up," Maness said. "I didn't know you could mail a letter to a major league player and get them to sign it."

Handling all the attention is as much a test for young players as handling big-league pitching.

That's why I asked manager Mike Matheny about his advice for the young players on his club. Piscotty will have to learn to handle notoriety one day, too.

Gone over it "the first day of spring and 100 times since then," Matheny said.

"It can be a distraction if we do anything differently than what we did in the past, which is work hard," Matheny added. "The results will be there if we commit to the process."

With that, it would seem that Matheny can sleep well at night knowing veterans will guide along the youngin's, including Piscotty if the Cardinals summon him from Memphis.

"I sleep good anyhow," Matheny said with a laugh, "but in general our veterans are our core of our group."

Matheny won't have to worry about Piscotty not following orders, or taking mental notes. He's been doing plenty of both through camp.

Sometimes it's listening to center fielder Jon Jay in the dugout explain defensive alignments. Sometimes it's simply watching the way staff ace Adam Wainwright goofs around one day, then flat dominates a lineup the next.

Sometimes, it's being in awe. With the look.

"I'm definitely living the dream right now and trying to soak in each day," Piscotty said. "But ultimately I'm also trying to get ready for the season. That's around the corner, so I'm excited for that. I've been training all offseason, so I'm ready to go."

Kary Booher, Sunday Sports Editor of the News-Leader, can be reached at 836-1180 or by email at kbooher@news-leader.com. Follow him on Twitter at @karybooherNL.

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