CLEARWATER, Fla. -- There was no holding back Brock Stassi this spring and when he achieved his goal, there was no holding back the tears.
"I can finally say I'm a big-leaguer," the 27-year-old first baseman/outfielder said moments after learning he'd earned one of the final two spots on the Phillies' opening day roster late Thursday afternoon.
"It's a dream come true. I really don't have words to describe it right now."
Words were not needed. The tears in Stassi's blue eyes said it all.
An against-all-odds professional baseball journey that started when he received a $1,000 signing bonus as a 33rd-round draft pick by the Phillies in 2011 will take him to Cincinnati and the Phillies' season opener on Monday.
Daniel Nava, another first baseman/outfielder, will also be there. Nava and Stassi were chosen for reserve roles with the club while 22-year-old prospect Jesmuel Valentin, the third candidate for one of the final two spots on the bench, was sent to Triple-A so he could play every day and further his development.
The Phillies cleared room on their 40-man roster by designating outfielder Tyler Goeddel for assignment.
Nava, a 34-year-old who has played in the majors with Boston, Tampa Bay, Anaheim and Kansas City, came to camp on a minor-league contract and earned his way onto the club by hitting .362 (17 for 47) with a .944 OPS.
As happy as Nava was to make the club, he couldn't help but get caught up in Stassi's elation. Nava has walked a few miles in Stassi's spikes. He was an undrafted player and began his pro career in an independent league before signing with Boston in 2008.
"It's awesome," Nava said. "I've been in his position. Also, we have unique stories. Neither one of us were big prospects or big signs so when he started sharing his story I was happy for him that he was doing so well, and to make the team -- it's special. It's special, your first one. He earned it. Nothing was given to him. Everyone was pulling for him and now we're all pumped for him."
A couple of years ago, Stassi thought his baseball dream was dying. He feared he might get released in spring training 2015. But he made the Double-A roster that spring, revamped his swing and had a huge season that earned him Eastern League MVP honors. He was invited to big-league camp last spring and spent all of 2016 at Triple A. He was invited back to big-league camp this spring with the mindset of winning a job.
And he did it with his lefty bat and good glove work at first base and in the outfield.
Stassi started hitting early in camp and never stopped. For the spring, he batted .333 (19 for 57) with six homers, 17 RBIs and a 1.099 OPS.
Stassi got the news in a meeting with manager Pete Mackanin after Thursday's 14-1 loss to the Yankees.
"What number do you want?" Mackanin asked Stassi, who wore non-roster number 78 in camp.
Stassi was speechless.
"I didn't really know what to expect," he said of the meeting. "I was pretty nervous. When Pete asked what number I wanted -- it was pretty special."
After getting the news, Stassi tried to call his folks. No answer.
"They’re working," he said with a laugh.
But they will be in Cincinnati on Monday.
And a lot of people who pulled for him along the way will be there in spirit, as well.
"My scout, Joey Davis -- he drafted me in the 33rd round -- he saw something in me," Stassi said. "I'm so thankful."
Stassi's dad, Jim, is a physical education teacher in the Sacramento area. A former catcher, Jim Stassi made it to Triple-A with the Giants before becoming a successful high school coach in Yuba City, California, where he coached his three sons. Max, also a catcher, has played in the majors with Houston each of the last four seasons.
Even Mackanin got a little caught up in Stassi's story.
"I got a little choked up, to be honest with you," Mackanin said. "I've sent a lot of guys to the big leagues as a Triple-A manager. I had my share of sending guys down and releasing them, which is the worst part about my job. But over the years, I have sent a lot of guys up and it's always fun.
"This was special to me. And I know it was to (player development director) Joe Jordan because Brock earned every bit of it. He's just a good-looking player. He gives you good at-bats. He's a good defender. He plays the game the right way."
Stassi's journey to the majors was difficult. Staying in the majors is not easy, either, especially for a rookie reserve who must learn to stay sharp when the at-bats are not plentiful.
Stassi realizes that.
"I'm going to celebrate tonight, but it's not done," he said. "I don't just want to get here, I want to stay here. I accomplished one of my goals. I'm just looking forward to the next one."