Janet Cisco, the sports mom of the year

Drew Cisco, a senior pitcher at Wando HS, with his mother Janet after a recent game.

She works the home plate umpire.

"You're missing a good game, blue!"

At any given picnic, she guns a football 30 yards on a line and demands better of a 12-year-old receiver she barely knows.

"Gotta catch that!"

The other Wando High School baseball team moms know the needle is always out.

"Did you buy those shoes on sale?" Janet Cisco asks with a sneaky grin. "Or does it just look like it?"

In all the national media stories about Wando senior pitcher Drew Cisco, a top prospect for next month's major league draft, much of his success is credited to the bloodline on his dad's side with no mention of mom. It's the same standard background tale for Drew's older brother, Mike Cisco, the former South Carolina pitcher now pitching professionally at the Double-A level.

Pardon the pause while everyone who knows the family stops laughing.

Yes, grandfather Galen Cisco is a former big league pitcher and was the Toronto Blue Jays' pitching coach when they won the World Series in 1992 and 1993. And father Jeff Cisco is a former minor league catcher. Certainly they are part of why Drew and Mike pitch as intelligently as 30-year-old men.

But gobs of spirit and plenty of athleticism come from Janet.

"She is one of the most competitive people I've ever seen," Drew Cisco said. "When people talk about Mike and I being competitive and my other brother Brian being someone who doesn't like to lose, she's been a big part of that."

For instance, none of the other players on the Wando team has a mom who is undefeated against the ultimate competitor in sports.

"Oh, yeah," Janet Cisco said while sitting in a Honey Baked Ham store the family owns in Mount Pleasant. "The day I beat Michael Jordan."

A native of Rock Hill who attended the University of North Carolina on a basketball scholarship before transferring to Winthrop, Janet Cisco during a practice floor transition from the Tar Heel women's team to the men's team encountered a fellow freshman.

"I knew Michael because we both lived in the Granville Towers," Janet Cisco said. "He came up to me and said, 'Come on. One on one. Let's go.' "

Ladies, first.

"So I got the ball, bounced it between his legs, came around the other side of him and made a lay-up," she said. "Then I quit: 'Game over.' I beat Michael Jordan, 1-0. That's my story."

A baseball life

OK. I am not saying she is not a sweet, friendly, unselfish, attractive, delightful woman who has raised polite kids. Janet Cisco is all of those things.

Just saying that if, say, you find yourself in a bar fight on "Girls Night Out" you might be in luck if she is seated at your table.

The former Janet Frederick and Jeff Cisco met as Winthrop students, married and came to Charleston when Jeff was assigned to the Charleston Rainbows of the Class A South Atlantic League for the 1985 and 1986 seasons.

Three boys later, life took a big baseball turn. Middle son Brian was a Wando High School catcher. All three served as Philadelphia Phillies bat boys when Galen Cisco was the team's pitching coach.

"It's been great," Janet said. "I didn't know too much about baseball when I met Jeff but I got to know it pretty quick. Being around it so much when the boys were kids, you knew there was a love for the game. You couldn't get their uniforms off."

Gradually, mom learned the game.

"She is the kind of mom who stands in the living room giving pitching lessons," Drew Cisco said. "My brothers and I have been lucky to have someone like that. Everything she does, she does for us."

No flowers

Motivation is a specialty.

"I call it like it is; I don't sugar-coat too much," Janet Cisco said. "So they've become pretty tough.

"I just don't like to lose. I don't. I'm a firm believer in working hard and I've tried to instill that in the boys. I've told them, 'If you're not working hard, somebody else is.' "

Not surprisingly, of all the baseball awards her sons have brought home, Janet Cisco's favorite is a weight room work ethic prize Mike earned at South Carolina, where head coach Ray Tanner alternately referred to him as "our Greg Maddux" and "a bulldog."

She works out at a gym and helps mind the Honey Baked Ham store. But mostly Janet Cisco keeps up with her sons.

Mike pitches for the Phillies' Double-A club in Reading, Pa. She follows his games on the Internet.

Brian attends State University of New York-Maritime College in The Bronx and will do a summer internship on a Shell tanker.

Drew is striving to help Wando High School win its first state championship after a near-miss last season.

All the tough stuff is balanced by a consistent sense of humor shared by the other Wando baseball moms.

"You have to have that, too," Janet Cisco said. "If you're not having fun, you shouldn't be doing it. You have to keep it in perspective."

But when asked earlier this week what she wanted for Mother's Day, there was no hesitation.

"No flowers," Janet Cisco said. "A state championship."

Reach Gene Sapakoff at gsapakoff@postandcourier.com or (843) 937-5593.