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by Editor, Rick Cabral

 MAX STASSI -- Born to Play Baseball 

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Most local baseball fans recognize the name "Stassi," mainly because of Max Stassi, who twice was voted the Bee's "Player of the Year" in 2008 and 2009, a rare accomplishment in Sacramento area athletics.

Jim Stassi managed the Yuba City High baseball program until last season. Among his finest players were his three sons: Brock, Max and Jake. Together, the Stassi clan claimed four consecutive Division III Section baseball titles, another rare achievement in the annals of prep history.

Max was always the star that shined brightest. In a four-year varsity career in which he started at catcher for Yuba City he compiled astounding numbers: 170 hits for a .513 average, 40 home runs and 162 runs batted in. More importantly, his teams went 108-15 and claimed three D-III crowns.

His father no doubt deserves the lion's share of that last stat, due in large part to his excellent coaching, especially the tutelage of his three sons. Brock (21) is now a senior pitcher at University of Nevada, Reno and Jake, the youngest (19) is a freshman at CSU, Long Beach. 

Picked in the 4th Round of the 2009 MLB June Amateur Draft, Stassi is one of the Oakland A's Top 10 prospects. Despite hitting just .229 at Kane County in the Midwest League (Low-A) last year, Oakland promoted him to start this year for the Stockton Ports (Single-A or "High" A) in the California League.Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com writes that Stassi should improve his offensive stats in the hitter friendly California League. 

Stassi admits to putting too much pressure on himself last season. He says he plans to rekindle his attitude from high school and "just go out, have fun and play." The 5' 10", 205-pound catcher noted that the difference from high school to the pros is "everything's faster: (pitching) velocity, running speed, infield arms. It's a lot quicker." Stassi fielded well last year, throwing out 42 base runners for a 34 percent average.

The A's invited Max to spring training this year, and the kid sucked it up like a 32 ounce Big Gulp at 7-11. "Oh, it was awesome," he says before an exhibition game at Raley Field against the River Cats. Having the opportunity to watch big league catchers in camp, like Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell, and the River Cats' Josh Donaldson was instructional, simply by osmosis. Stassi says he picked their brains and watched, listened and learned how "they go about their business. It was a good experience."

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Photo courtesy of James Venes/LastoftheNinth.com


The A's instructors worked with him on "staying within myself" in his hitting approach. And behind the plate, they showed him the finer points of receiving balls to his left, such as a sinker from a right handed pitcher.

Max is excited to return home to California where he can play more often in front of friends and family. Especially family. Father Jim retired from coaching last year after 18 seasons to spend more time watching his sons play at the next level. He'll certainly catch a number of Max's games in Stockton, which is only a two-hour drive from Yuba City.

Max comes from a rich baseball lineage. His father excelled at Yuba High and Yuba College, and played three seasons as a Giants farmhand, rising to Triple-A Phoenix. Jim's father and uncle, Bob and Sam Stassi respectively, played in the Pacific Coast League, and his great uncle Myril Hoag, played with the New York Yankees in the 1930s.

Asked if he was bred to be a ball player, Max Stassi responds with a confident grin. "It's what I was born to do. It's what I love to do. I like to say 'I was born into it.'"

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To learn more about the Stassi family baseball history, read this Marysville Appeal-Democrat article.

Uploaded 04/07/11

All contents © Rick Cabral 2011

 

 

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