Let it be known that Grant Desme hasn't forgotten where he came from.
When the Stockdale High alumnus returned to Bakersfield this weekend as a member of the Stockton Ports, California League Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, he touched base with Stockdale assistant coach Greg Showers.
He wanted to make sure Showers remembered a certain senior-year at-bat with the Mustangs.
"(Showers) said the last time he's ever squeezed was my senior year at South High," Desme said in the Ports clubhouse Monday. "I popped up the squeeze for a double play, then I hit a home run the next inning. He said, 'I (scrapped) the squeeze after that.'"
Desme, 23, isn't bunting much these days, either, considering he's batting clean-up for a professional baseball team.
Desme doubled in four at-bats Monday night in the series finale at Sam Lynn Ball Park to drive in a run. He was also caught stealing for the first time in 28 pro attempts. Desme finished the series 1-for-4 with a double and a strikeout.
Of course, no Port had many hits Monday. Bakersfield starter Ryan Tatusko allowed just one hit in his first six innings, the start after he carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning last week at Modesto. Stockton chased Tatusko on Monday in the seventh inning -- the inning when Desme doubled -- but the Blaze held on for a 5-2 win. Ian Gac hit his 13th home run, Bakersfield improved to 6-6 in second-half play, and Tatusko is 3-1 as a starter.
As for Desme, he's now hitting .227 in 12 games with Stockton after being called up from low Class A Kane County. Desme was the Athletics' second-round pick in 2007 out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, but he missed that season with a broken wrist and nearly all of the 2008 season with a torn labrum.
"This is my first time really playing a full year," Desme said.
He's healthy now and flashing some of the potential that persuaded the A's to draft him despite the injury.
"I think he's acclimated himself quite well," Stockton manager Aaron Nieckula said. "You've got to look at his pedigree and where he's coming from. He had an outstanding college career ... and he's coming to a team that doesn't hit for a lot of power. Or didn't, at least, before he got here. He's one of those guys you stick in the middle of a lineup that strikes fear in opposing pitchers."
Desme's power potential was obvious -- the ball he laced to the wall in the second inning Monday was a perfect example, and he's hit 22 doubles and 15 home runs in just 306 career at-bats. But thus far in his career, that power has been at the expense of making consistent contact. He has struck out 99 times this year at Kane County and Stockton combined.
"He's a swing-and-miss guy since he's been here, yeah, but that's just a matter of getting himself comfortable," Nieckula said. "Seeing some pitches, being a little more selective, and that will come with time."
Desme said he's progressing in that regard.
"I'm trying to do too much," he said. "From Kane to here, I don't feel like the pitching's significantly better. They fill up the (strike) zone more, but it's my mistakes. But I feel like I'm going in the right direction."
One reason the improvement might be coming is that Desme is getting used to the minor-league grind -- long bus rides through the heat every week, living with host families, long days at the ballpark.
"It's definitely a grind," Desme said, "but it's fun. You get to play baseball every day, and especially in this economy, we don't really have to worry. We go play a game and get paid for it. It is still a job, though, and you've got things you have to do when you don't feel like it, so there is a grind there."
He got a respite from that this weekend, when he stayed with his parents and ate a few home-cooked meals. He also had scores of family, friends and old coaches and teammates in the stands.
"It's nice to be home, see my family and eat some good food at home," Desme said. "It was weird the first night here, I took a shower here and then just went home. It was like I was back in high school or something."
And if he's still with the Ports when they return to Sam Lynn again -- the Ports are in town Aug. 24-26 -- he'll have another reason to remember his hometown.
"He came in and asked me if he could stay at home," Nieckula said. "I said, 'Absolutely.' Any of these guys. ... It's not too often you get the opportunity to do that."