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by Editor, Rick Cabral

 
MAX STASSI
Back Home Behind the Plate

Max Stassi is the Golden Child, the fair-haired one.  

Literally.

Talking to Stassi on Raley Field before the exhibition between the River Cats and Stockton Ports, you marvel as the sun highlights his close-cropped wheat-colored hair as if nature seems to confirm royalty status on this 21-year-old catcher.  

And then there’s Stassi’s ever-present beaming smile that can light up a ballpark. 

But the smile is only just returning, as the prodigy of the now-famous Stassi baseball family of Yuba City is back on the field after his promising pro career was interrupted last May by season-ending shoulder surgery. Although he was only hitting .231 for the Ports at the time, he remained one of Oakland top prospects, the one projected to eventually inherit the big-league backstop job from Kurt Suzuki (go here to read the Spotlight feature we did on him this time last year).

Stassi_Slings

While his teammates played throughout the summer, Stassi began a long rehabilitation process and he is finally ready to resume that promising career. 

“It was tough,” he admits, “but it (surgery) was a blessing in disguise. It humbles you and makes you real motivated to go out there and succeed.” Now, he’s looking forward again, anticipating the future. “I’m just glad my arm’s okay, that it’s finally cleaned up and I can just go out and play the game again.” 

Stassi injured his arm his senior season at Yuba City, but he finished his career with astounding offensive numbers, including a four-year varsity batting average of .513, 40 home runs and 162 RBI. The Sacramento Bee twice selected him Most Valuable High School Player award—the only time in the newspaper’s history—and Oakland selected him in the amateur draft. Although he “fell to the fourth round,” the Athletics offered first-round bonus money ($1.5 million). Stassi rejected the full-ride scholarship to play at UCLA and signed that summer, beginning his long-awaited pro career. 

His father Jim Stassi was a standout at Yuba City and played in the Giants organization two years, reaching Triple-A. He coached his alma mater for 18 years and won section championships the final four years with his three sons Brock, Max and Jake forming the nucleus of those great clubs. Brock is now a Philly farmhand and Jake is playing his second season at Long Beach State. 

Asked if he fondly recalls those glory days in high school, Max smiles and says “It was awesome. That was the best thing that will probably ever in my career. Playing with my brothers, and my dad coaching us. Those section championships…that’s something I won’t ever forget.” 

But Stassi is looking to the future now and his number one goal is “to have a healthy season and have a lot of fun out there.” 

Stassi, who homered and went two for three in the exhibition last night against the River Cats, is on his way.


Sidebar: Stassi and Susac Enjoy Brother-Like Relationship 

In researching our story last summer on Andrew Susac (the Giants #2 round selection in the 2012 MLB amateur draft) and the impact of travel ball on his development, we discovered that Andrew and Max Stassi have enjoyed a long-term friendly but competitive relationship.  

When asked about it yesterday, Stassi said he and Susac became even closer during this past off-season working out together in Arizona, and hanging out and playing golf. “We talk a lot of trash to each other,” Stassi says grinning, “but it’s all fun and games. He’s kind of like my brother in a way, you know. We kind of have that love for each other. It’s a good relationship.” 

To read about the early days of their relationship read the Travel Ball story.

 

Uploaded 04/03/12

All contents © Rick Cabral 2012

 

 

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