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March 03, 2016

Brotherly glove: Stassi brothers meet up in Clearwater

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Brock Stassi hopped out of the batting cage before the Phillies wrapped up their pregame batting practice and found a familiar face.

Max Stassi made the near-100 mile trip from Kissimmee as a part of the Houston Astros roster that was set to take on the Phillies at Bright House Field. The Stassi brothers were also joined by their parents, who flew in from the family’s northern California home for the occasion.

“It’s awesome,” said Brock Stassi, a left-handed hitting first baseman in camp with the Phillies. “ It’s everything we dreamed of as kids. It’s just really cool I got to stay back and he got to make the trip over.”

As Brock Stassi noted, the family needed a little luck on their sides, though – in addition to their game against the Astros, the Phillies had another split squad in Tampa against the Yankees. And the Astros, like many teams, didn’t send everyone on the roster to Clearwater, a near-two hour trip from their own spring home in Kissimmee.

“They timed it because they knew we had a chance,” Brock Stassi said of his parents, for whom he left tickets on Thursday.

The Stassi family baseball history began long before the two brothers that hit in the same cage prior to Thursday’s Grapefruit League game.

The Stassi brothers’ great uncle played in an outfield with Babe Ruth for four years. Myril Hoag spent the first seven of his 13 big league seasons with the New York Yankees, playing alongside Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio, among others, and being a part of four of the Yankees' five World Series-winning teams in the 1930s.

Hoag hit .284 in 471 career games with the Yankees and batted .300 in the 1937 World Series, when his solo home run in Game 5 gave New York a 1-0 lead in the game that would end up clinching the series win.

“My grandpa has told stories here and there about his playing days, and his relationship with him,” Brock Stassi said. “My grandpa and his brother both played. My grandpa was a catcher. So each generation has had a catcher in it so far. Even talking shop with mom, she gets into it, too. It’s a lot of fun.”

Like Brock, his father, Jim Stassi, played at the University of Nevada-Reno but like Max, he was a catcher who spent two years in the San Francisco Giants farm system. Sam Stassi, Jim’s uncle, was also a minor league catcher.

Max Stassi started behind the plate for the Astros on Thursday, catching Astros free agent acquisition Doug Fister.

The Stassi brothers played together this winter in Puerto Rico, but prior to that, hadn't played on the same field at the same time since Brock's senior year at Yuba City (Calif.) High School, when they were a pitching-catching battery.