Jim Stassi was weaving through a sea of humanity on Monday when it hit him like a play at the plate.
Not the people. The moment.
Stassi is in Cincinnati for Opening Day. The Reds were about to face the Philadelphia Phillies, a roster that includes his Yuba City born-and-raised son, Brock, when Stassi took a moment to collect himself.
Is it real? Don’t pinch pops now. This is too good.
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“I’m heading to the stadium as we speak,” Stassi, the proud father, said by phone, surrounded by 18 family members who made the trek to Ohio. “This place is a madhouse. So many people. I love it. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. There was a parade that lasted 2 1/2 hours by our hotel. That’s how they celebrate (Opening Day).”
Stassi and the family mob have also been celebrating. He has experienced a lot of baseball as a player and a coach. The Bee’s Player of the Year out of Yuba City High School in 1977, Stassi was drafted by the Giants in 1982 in the 17th round out of Nevada as a catcher. He logged two minor-league seasons, reaching Triple-A. His greatest joy was coaching sons Brock, Jake and Max at Yuba City High, each a star.
Max has spent time in the big leagues with the Houston Astros and he’s angling for a return, which is a thrill enough for the family. Now Brock is in the mix, a longshot who made it as a 27-year-old reveling in a kid’s game. He plays first base and right field.
Brock was a 33rd round draft pick out of Nevada in 2011. He was handed a plane ticket, a pat on the back, a $1,000 bonus and little other promise that he’d reach the parent club. Brock bounced around the minors and other far-away outposts for six years, from Class-A Williamsport to the Tiburones La Guaira of the Venezuelan Winter League in 2016.
Max tweeted of his brother’s making the Phillies: “Offseason substitute teacher...was told he wasn’t good enough to hit in college...cut early in area code tryouts...my brother is a prime example to everyone: chase your dream, prove the doubters wrong, and GRIND!”
Brock teared up when he spoke to the media about making the Phillies, saying, “I never doubted myself. My scout Joey Davis drated me in the 33rd round. He saw something in me and I’m so thankful.”
Stassi entered the game in the eighth inning as a pinch hitter and drew a walk.
Stassi was coaching physical education at Yuba City last week when he learned of his son’s roster move. Two teachers came rushing out onto the blacktop pumping their fists.
Offseason substitute teacher...was told he wasn’t good enough to hit in college...cut early in area code tryouts...my brother is a prime example to everyone: chase your dream, prove the doubters wrong, and GRIND!
Yuba City native Max Stassi, a catcher in the Houston Astros organization, tweeting on his brother, Brock, making the Philadelphia Phillies’ Opening Day roster
“It’s different than when Max was called up during the season,” Stassi said. “This is a different atmosphere, Opening Day. I saw the interview, my son emotional, and I cried like a baby. It was out of character for him to cry, and I was surprised it affected him so much. But he earned it. It was a big sigh of relief for him to make it.”
Jake Stassi pitched at Long Beach State and Sacramento State. He didn’t reach the majors, but good luck finding a bigger fan of his brothers. He was part of Team Stassi in Cincinnati.
“The support of the brothers to each other, that’s the icing on the cake,” Stassi said. “As parents, (wife Racquelle) and I could not be more proud. The boys have always pulled for each other. I tell people that I’m more proud of hearing how respectful and polite they are to people than what they’ve ever done on the field.”
▪ The Stassi brothers are the sixth in regional history to make it to the major leagues. The others: Curtis and Leon Brown of Grant in the 1970s; Bob and Ken Forsch of Johnson and Sacramento City College in the 1970s and ’80s; Chris and Nyls Nyman of Cordova in the 1970s); Dave and Steve Sax of Marshall (now River City) in the 1980s and Jimmy and Wally Westlake of Christian Brothers in the 1940s or ’50s.