From the moment Max Stassi stepped into the batter’s box at Rangers Ballpark last Aug. 21, things have been a whirlwind.
Stassi, making his second appearance with the Houston Astros, was hit in the face that day by a pitch from Rangers right-hander Tanner Scheppers and suffered a concussion that forced him to miss five weeks.
It was an unfortunate break for the 23-year-old catcher, who is now one of the young stars for the Oklahoma City RedHawks. He’s off to a fast start this season, making his presence known as he is working to return to the major leagues.
“(The Astros) pretty much told me to keep working and things will take care of themselves,” Stassi said. “They’ve got two great guys with All-Star catcher Jason (Castro) and Carlos Corporan. Whenever my time comes, I’ll be ready.”
Stassi, at least early in the season, has shown he’s getting closer.
He opened the season on a 12-game hitting streak and even homered in three straight games. He entered Saturday night’s game at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark hitting .263 with five home runs and 17 RBIs.
Stassi is the 12th-ranked prospect in the Astros’ organization, and he’s caught the attention of the RedHawks’ staff.
“His catching has improved, he’s learning things every day and that’s what you expect with young kids,” RedHawks interim manager Tom Lawless said. “We’re trying to develop him into a major league starting catcher. He’s got really good power — he’s already shown that — to all fields. The more game experience he gets, the better he’s going to be.”
And Stassi is getting that experience.
Saturday night was his 19th appearance in 23 games for the RedHawks, though this one came as the designated hitter.
His three appearances with the Astros last season were invaluable, especially after spending the majority of the season with Double-A Corpus Christi.
“I look at their catchers, it’s like a brotherhood,” Stassi said. “Of course we all want to be catchers there at the big-league level and be the starter, but it’s nice to be able to have guys to ask questions to and learn from.”
There was just that scary moment last August.
Stassi said he spent the majority of the five weeks recovering by sleeping 12-14 hours each day. The last thing to return was his balance.
That didn’t change the memory of making his major league debut, though.
“It’s everything you work for in this game and your whole life, really,” he said. “It’s real surreal and it’s like an out-of-body experience. You always envision yourself as a kid being up there and it was special moment for me.”
Now, he just wants to return, hopefully with a different result.
“I was up there and you want to make an impression, and unfortunately I got hit in the face,” Stassi said. “But I’m happy here and ready to help this team win ballgames. It was just one those things that happened. It was unfortunate, but I thank God I’m healthy now and still playing the game I love.”