Mason Auer graduated from the same high school I did.
I connected with the 5th round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays for a game of catch and interview. I will confess to being slightly intimidated ahead of time, knowing that Mason can throw the ball triple-digit miles per hour. I don’t even have a car that can go that fast. And I certainly don’t have a glove that is capable of catching a triple-digit-miles-per-hour throw without the risk of experiencing serious pain.
I arrived at the Marucci Clubhouse early, hoping I could watch Mason work and see what I could learn. Mason was taking live at-bats against the pitching coach of Presentation College from Aberdeen, South Dakota. The coach was a lefty with a three-quarter arm slot and funky delivery. I positioned myself behind the screen and wound up standing next to the Presentation shortstop. He and I talked about the gift that lefties have of not being able to throw a ball straight. On a day temperatures hovered right around freezing, it was as close to real baseball as I could dream.
The first swing I saw Mason take, he barreled a ball to what would have been the gap in left centerfield.
That image is exactly the picture I want in my brain when I’m at the plate.
After Mason took his 100 (or so) swings, we played catch and had a conversation filled with important questions. We talked movies and walk-up songs and worked on knuckleballs. We talked 100-mph throws and Y-web glove design and enjoyed being surrounded by baseball sounds as Moberly College took swings in cages nearby.
You are asked to have a t-shirt made with your motto on it. What’s it going to say?
Would you rather have the game-winning hit or make the game-winning catch?
He paused for a couple moments before answering.
If you could play catch with any professional baseball player from any era, who would you play catch with?
“Bo Jackson. He had a cannon.”
Am I one of the best catch partners you’ve ever had who is at least 20 years older than you and attended the same high school?
“Yes, you are.”
(Phrasing of questions is very, very important.)
Were you nervous about playing catch with me?
“When I met you the other day, you seemed like a nice guy. I was excited for it.”
Who was your favorite teacher at Kickapoo?
(Mr. Broaddus was notified via text with the same picture at the top of this post. “Mason!! One of my kids!!! Tell him hi for me. I’ve been following him on Instagram. He’s a great kid. Can’t wait to see what his future holds.”)
Chiefs or Eagles?
Did you have fun today?
Mason leaves for Spring Training at the end of the month and hopes to break camp playing for the Montgomery Biscuits – AA ball.
I might have to make a road trip to cheer him on.