Big day for the Cassel family

Big day for the Cassel family

DENVER -- It's not unusual for ballplayers to lay around watching football in the clubhouse before a weekend game in September, but as Astros players gathered around the TV in the visitors clubhouse at Coors Field Sunday morning, the normally casual mood took on a decidedly different tone.

The TV was tuned to the New England-Kansas City game. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady left the game after being hit on the left leg, and backup quarterback Matt Cassel was in.

Matt Cassel, as in, the younger brother of Astros pitcher Jack Cassel.

Just as Cassel the football player was about to enter the game, Cassel the pitcher had to run to the field for pregame stretching. But there was plenty of time for Jack to call his parents to revel in the moment.

"Everybody's going nuts," Jack said. "We're all having to turn our phones off with everyone who's been calling."

Jack Cassel surmised his brother would receive more playing time in this one game than he had in his career. He admitted watching his brother on television was a bit nerve-wracking, considering the magnitude of the situation.

"You get up there [to the NFL], but then to play..." Cassel said. "Even for myself [as a September callup], it's great to be here, but when you play, it's that much more special. He's on the team now, but now he's playing and making the calls... that's what you dream about."

Turns out, Matt Cassel wasn't the only one who was summoned that day to replace an injured starter. Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez exited Sunday's game in Denver after just one inning with a right oblique strain, and manager Cecil Cooper called for Jack Cassel, who has experience starting and relieving and was stretched out after making 17 starts for Triple-A Round Rock.

"I just had this gut feeling that once Matt got in there, I was going to pitch today," Jack said after the Astros beat the Rockies, 7-5. "Unfortunately for Wandy, it came so soon. But I was happy to get in there and make the best of it."

Lately, life has been good for the Cassel family, between Matt's performance against the Chiefs -- he threw a touchdown pass to Randy Moss in the Patriots' 17-10 win -- Jack's September promotion and younger brother Justin's season as a farmhand in the White Sox organization. Justin finished the year with the lowest ERA in the Southern League.

High accomplishments aren't limited to the Cassel kids, either. Their mother, Barbara Cassel, won an Emmy in 2007 as one of a team of set decorators for the 2006 mini-series "Tony Bennett: An American Classic."

Barbara Cassel currently works on the show "My Own Worst Enemy," starring Christian Slater.

Alyson Footer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.