Max Stassi, Corpus Christi's 5-foot-10, 205-pound catcher, is big on looking up to the little guy for inspiration.
The Astros farmhand thinks there's no more important factor for his baseball future than his mental fortitude. Specifically, he's trying to emulate the approach of Craig Biggio and Dustin Pedroia, two players who carved out successful Major League careers with grinder mentalities.
With Biggio -- now an Astros' special assistant -- in town for Corpus Christi's weekend series with Frisco, Stassi continued a recent tear he credits to his own grinding mind-set. Houston's No. 16 prospect homered for the fifth straight game Sunday night, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs and two runs scored in the Hooks' 11-10 loss to visiting Frisco.
Corpus Christi trailed, 10-0, after two innings and 11-1 in the sixth. After the Hooks rallied for six runs in the bottom of the sixth, Stassi pulled them within 11-8 with a solo shot off reliever Kyle McClellan in the seventh.
It the sixth homer in nine games for Stassi, who has 10 on the season, including nine since the beginning of June.
The 22-year-old believes firmly that the key to his recent success -- he has a 1.035 OPS in 14 games this month -- has come because of his improving mental aptitude, something that was fortified by a conversation with Biggio over the weekend.
"Just his mental outlook, it's a big reason why he had as much success as he had," Stassi said. "It doesn't matter what you did yesterday, and you can't predict the future, so why worry about tomorrow? A lot of it is just staying in the present moment and trying to get out there and have success and hit the ball hard and let things take care of themselves. "
Selected by the A's in the fourth round of the 2009 Draft, Stassi hasn't had the easiest road in the Minor Leagues. Injuries limited him to 239 games over his first 3 1/2 seasons and he's played more than 100 games just once -- in 2010 with Class A Kane County.
Stassi posted a .690 OPS that season and a .662 OPS with Class A Advanced Stockton in 2010-11. He began to live up to his Draft hype last season with a .799 OPS in 84 games back in the California League.
During the offseason, the A's traded him with Chris Carter and Brad Peacock to the Astros for Jed Lowrie. Assigned to Double-A Corpus Christi, he missed the first month of the season due to a sports hernia but has built on the success he found last year.
On Sunday, Stassi raised his average to .262 with a .330 on-base percentage and .503 slugging percentage -- the latter ranks second on the team among players with at least 100 at-bats. While the five-game home run streak is a first for him, it's one of a few achievements he's had this season.
The California native's focus this year has been on replicating the kind of grinding effort he credits for his recent success.
"I'm always constantly working on the mental game. That's the biggest thing for me," Stassi said. "You look at all the guys around here at this level and above, and you see how important the mental game is.
"That's a big separator. Everyone has the same amount of tools around here. It's all about finding different ways to separate yourself. You can always be mentally stronger."