General : : Professional
Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Max Stassi Hit 110 homers for Good Cause

Jim Ecker        
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Max Stassi likes to hit home runs. He’s good at it, too.
Stassi walloped 40 homers during his prep career at Yuba City High School in California from 2006 through ‘09, making him on the top sluggers in the state. He surpassed those numbers last December, however, when he belted 110 homers in 30 minutes.

Yes, you read that right. He hit 110 homers in 30 minutes.

“I was tired. Oh, yeah,” Stassi said this week. “My dad was tired, too, throwing B.P.”
This wasn’t normal Batting Practice, mind you. Not by a long shot. Stassi engineered a special home run derby for charity that he called “Home Runs for Hungry and Homeless,” held at his high school field in Yuba City this past December.

Stassi thought of the idea, helped put it together and was the star of the show.
“My county in California was hit pretty hard with just the economy in general and people losing jobs,” he explained. “So I did a little home run derby, hit some homers and raised about $8,000 for local food banks and whatnot. So it helped out some.”
The proceeds were distributed to eight food banks in Sutter County, which helped the hungry and homeless in time for the holidays. “I was happy with the way things went with that,” he said, a touch of pride in his voice.

Stassi is a professional baseball now, and a fairly wealthy one. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2009 draft by Oakland, and the A’s gave him a hefty $1.5 million signing bonus to lure him away from a full ride to UCLA. He got first-round money despite being a fourth-round pick. You might not want to play poker with this guy.

Stassi signed at the deadline. “It came down to like the morning of the last day,” he said.

Stassi played briefly in the Arizona Rookie League and Northwest League last summer after signing in August. He was sitting at home last fall when he thought of an idea to help his friends and neighbors in Sutter County. “It just hit me,” he said.
Some people donated a flat amount to the “Home Runs for Hungry and Homeless.” Other people, like his cousin Chari Daddow, pledged $5 per homer, never dreaming he might hit 110 in 30 minutes. “Yeah,” said Stassi, laughing, “so she was down $550.”
Chari paid, happily.

“The wind was blowing out, so I got lucky,” Stassi said. “Honestly, the wind was howling out. So all I had to do was get it in the jet stream and it was out.”
Jim Stassi, Max’s father, did the pitching. Jim played in the minor leagues and was Max’s high school coach, so he knew exactly where to put the pitches. Max did the rest.

Think about it, though. Stassi hit 110 homers in 30 minutes, divided into two 15-minute sessions so he could rest  between sessions. That’s nearly four homers per minute, or one every 16 or 17 seconds.

He used a wood bat for Part I, then switched to a metal bat for Part II. And they weren’t playing in Max’s back yard. He hit all those homers at the Yuba City High School field, with normal high school dimensions of 320 to the corners and 360 to center.

“I just got it in the air and they were traveling out,” he said. “It was awesome. It was a fun day.”

Stassi is having a lot of fun in pro ball now, too. He’s a 5-foot-10, 190-pound catcher for the Kane County Cougars in the Class A Midwest League. He began Monday’s game against the Cedar Rapids Kernels with a modest .235 batting average, but went 3-for-4 with a double and raised his mark to .259 with three homers and 14 RBIs in 22 games.

“You know, you go through your ups and downs and you learn a lot,” he said. “You learn a lot about yourself, playing every day. It’s a whole different world.”
Stassi had struck out 33 times in 22 games through Monday, an average of 1 ½ strikeouts per game, so he’s working on putting the ball in play and being more consistent. He’s only 19 years old, so there’s time. If he hadn’t sign with Oakland last August, he’d be a freshman at UCLA right now.

“Yeah, I think about that quite a bit, how my lifestyle changed, but I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” he said. “It’s awesome, just playing baseball every day.”

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