When Max Stassi was drafted in the fourth round by the Oakland Athletics in 2009, he figured to be on the fast track to the big leagues. Gold Sox manager Jack Johnson predicted he would be in the majors in 3˝ years. Injuries and a trade, however, seemed to slow down his progress. But on Tuesday, while in Double-A Corpus Christi, he got the call.
Prior to the start of the year, the highly-touted catching prospect out of Yuba City High School hadn't been healthy. He had a shoulder issue, and battled what is called a sports hernia. On Valentine's Day, the A's made a trade with the Houston Astros to acquire infielder Jed Lowrie. Stassi was included in the package that went to Texas.
Stassi had spent the entire season with the Corpus Christi Hooks. He was batting a healthy .277 with 17 homers and 60 RBI. Not staggering numbers, but Carlos Corporan was hit in the face and suffered a concussion. The Astros needed a backup, and figured it was time to give Max his shot.
"It was unexpected," Stassi told MLB.com before the game. "I was just hanging out on an off-day at Sonic with a couple teammates in Double-A. Next thing I know, my phone is ringing and it's my manager, Keith Bodie, and he's telling me to pack my stuff and I'm heading to Arlington. It was a pretty exciting time."
In Arlington against the Texas Rangers, Stassi batted seventh and was the designated hitter. He struck out his first time up. In Yuba City, a crowd gathered at a local sports bar and restaurant and cheered him on. Max's father Jim Stassi, who was also his high school coach, made the trip to the Dallas area to watch his middle son realize a dream.
Stassi singled up the middle in his second major-league at-bat, just four years and two months after being drafted at age 18. The prediction of his Gold Sox manager of three and a half years was pretty close. On the next play, a ground ball to short. The throw to second went into center field, but Max didn't see it, and thought he had been forced. He started to walk toward the dugout and was tagged out. It was an embarrassing moment in his first major league game, but a minor gaffe. Stassi would single again before the end of the night, and ended up with a 2-for-3 debut.
As exciting as Stassi's first night in the majors was, his second was a nightmare. In the eighth inning with the bases loaded, he picked up his first big-league RBI the hard way—he was hit in the face with a pitch. The ball glanced of of his shoulder, and as Max tried to turn his head, it got him in the nose and mouth. Stassi left the game with his face in a towel, but later tests would show nothing broken. He was diagnosed with a 'mild to moderate' concussion, and ended up like Corporan—on the 7-day concussion disabled list.
It may depend on the extent of Corporan's injury, but Stassi could return to the Astros in a week, or maybe he'll go back to the minors until September. The minor league season is almost over, and major league rosters can expand on September 1. With the Astros on pace to lose well over 100 games, the organization might as well look at Stassi, and what he brings to the table. Rated as an excellent defensive catcher with some pop in his bat, Max could get a lot of time either behind the plate or as the DH as the season winds down.
By the way, the Astros visit Oakland September 5-8. Hopefully Stassi will be healthy enough to be back on the active roster. If he is, you can guarantee a large Yuba City-Marysville contingent in the stands.
More Stassi: The best comment about Stassi's debut came on Twitter from Appeal-Democrat sports editor Jimmy Graben, who played high school ball with Stassi: “Hard to play 'journalist' when you've known someone your whole life and played alongside him. Max Stassi making YC proud tonight”... I've only known Stassi since he was 15 and a freshman in high school. The first time I interviewed him, he was wearing braces.
Stassi is the second Gold Sox alumnus to make his major league debut this season, with pitcher Curtis Partch of the Cincinnati Reds being the other. Stassi is the fifth Gold Sox player to make it to the majors, joining Dallas Braden, Tommy Everidge, Anthony Bass, and Partch. The Astros host Cincinnati September 16-18, a chance for the first-ever former Gold Sox matchup in the major leagues.
Dodgers: A quick trip to Palmdale this weekend, and took Mom to the Dodgers-Red Sox game Sunday night. The Dodgers hadn't lost a series in almost two months, but I was there to see the streak end. The Red Sox won 8-1, and Yasiel Puig went 0-for-3. Nothing against Puig, because the Boys in Blue were held to just three hits, while the Red Sox hit three homers. Be careful if you look up, because I don't think Mike Napoli's shot has come down yet...
Interesting that one of the sponsors of Dodger baseball is Time Warner Cable, which is in a contract dispute with CBS and its network-owned stations. One of those stations is KCAL Channel 9, which airs several Dodger games. So Time Warner is sponsoring a broadcast that it is refusing to show. Strange days indeed.
Back to the minors: On my way back to Marysville tonight, I am stopping in Bakersfield to take in (at least part of) a minor league game. Sam Lynn Ball Park has long been considered one of the worst in America. If nothing has changed, it is supposed to be closing down after this season, so I thought I'd soak in the awfulness one last time.