While Cassel has had a quiet MLB career so far — 45 combined innings for the Padres and 'Stros over two seasons — his younger brother Matt made headlines over the weekend, going from a clipboard-holder for the Patriots to the team's No. 1 quarterback.
As one might imagine, there was quite a bit of interest in Houston's clubhouse once Tom Brady fell and Matt got the call.
Jack Cassel's Sunday morning started off just like millions of other football fans. The Houston Astros' pitcher walked into the clubhouse to find his teammates talking trash about their fantasy squads. Players had their computers out to monitor statistics. The television was locked onto the NFL.
"Next thing we know, about 11:20ish, we have the Chiefs-Patriots game on and Brady goes down," Jack told me on Monday over the phone.
Tom Brady's injury sent a jolt through fantasy leagues and clubhouses everywhere, but for Jack, the injury meant something else entirely — it meant that his younger brother Matt — a backup quarterback for the Patriots up to that point — would be entering the game.
"A hush kind of fell over the clubhouse," Jack said. "It started to hit us, me especially, that Matt's number was going to be called and he was going to be coming in."
As the eldest Cassel brother, Jack called his parents to let them know what was going on.
"I ran over to my locker, grabbed my cell phone real quick, and immediately started dialing, my mother first and then my father," Jack said. "Just to make sure they were watching and kind of give them some words of encouragement because I knew they were both going through the roof."
By the time Jack finished up his phone calls, it was time for the Astros' pitchers to go out and stretch. At the same time, his brother was stepping onto the field as the Pats' new No. 1 quarterback. Luckily, a few members of the Astros' traveling party came to the rescue after Matt led New England down the field for a score."A couple of our guys here with the media team had their arms up signaling touchdown," Jack said. "They were nice enough to write down his first drive and the stats and stuff, (and) read those off to me ... I hustled in and saw the scoreboard and we were up 7-0 and Matt's face was all over the TV, so it was pretty exciting."
It was about this time that Jack says he realized that the Cassel family's day was going to become even more special. "I had this epiphany that as destiny would have it, I would get in (to the game)." Jack said.
In an ironic turn, Jack was pressed into action during Sunday's game as well, after starter Wandy Rodriguez had to leave the game after the first inning with an oblique strain. Jack gave his team four innings of solid relief, as the Astros defeated the Rockies 7-5.
After the game, when Matt and Jack finally had a few minutes to discuss what they had accomplished during the day, the brothers spent the first few moments of their phone call trying to figure out who would talk about their incredible day first.
"He picked up, and I said, "So tell me about (your game)," Jack said. "And he goes, "No, Mom said you pitched tell me about your game, and so we were kind of fighting back and forth ... he ended up going first, as the oldest I kind of said you go first, now."
Success is nothing new for the Cassel family. Jack and Matt's mother Barbara is an Emmy-award winning set decorator and youngest brother Justin is a top prospect in the White Sox system. The pipeline of family achievements doesn't stop there however. While attending USC, Matt started dating Lauren Killian, a member of the Trojans' national championship winning volleyball team. At the same time, he also played the role of matchmaker for his older brother.
"Everyone was kind of like "you have to meet Lauren's roommate Julie," Jack said.
Julie Mariani also played on the Trojans volleyball team, so the pair had plenty of common points to discuss on the first few dates. After Jack started his minor league career he was fortunate to be able to hang out with his brother because of where his minor league team was based.
"(Lauren and Julie) lived together so it was perfect when I was in A-ball I was out in Lake Elsinore, California, so I would come up (to Los Angeles) and I would get to see my girlfriend and my brother."
As fate would have it, the brothers both ended up marrying their girlfriends, thus making the Cassel family gene pool that much deeper in athletic prowess."We married national champs," said Jack, who is expecting his first child with Julie in a few weeks.
No matter what happens from here on out, the father-to-be is just thankful for the opportunities that he and his brothers have been given.
"Enjoy the moment and prepare for the next, because you never know," Jack said of the approach he and Matt are trying to take. "You see what happened to Tommy (Brady) and you see what happens in both our sports, there's such a quick turnover, we're very appreciative of this time."
You can bet that part of Jack's time will be spent glued to the television this weekend when Matt makes his first career start against the Jets. The Matt Cassel Fan Club has a lot of new members in the Houston clubhouse.
"Everybody has been incredibly cool and supportive," Jack said of his teammates. "I think they're all enjoying it as much as I am, we kind of all went through it (Sunday) together ... There was probably 25 guys sitting around and watching while that all went down."
The fantasy trash talk will continue this weekend, but it might be Jack who gets the last laugh. The faith he has shown in Matt has finally started paying some dividends.
"My youngest brother Justin and I draft him every year," Jack said. "So now my 16th rounder is probably going to be my starting QB this week ... Sorry, Ben Roethlisberger. We're going with Cassel."
- Tom Brady
- Matt Cassel