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Gaels gain after Mason’s pain

After solving nagging shoulder issue, Placer pitcher lands scholarship from St. Mary’s College
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Ryan Mason knew there was nowhere to go but up after a spring filled with pain in his right shoulder and underwhelming results on the baseball diamond. After wowing scouts over the past month, Mason had plenty of places to go, but he settled on Moraga and St. Mary’s College. The Placer High senior gave a verbal commitment to play baseball for the Gaels last weekend. A pinched nerve in his shoulder held Mason back with the Hillmen last spring. Deep tissue therapy sessions following the season took care of the issue, allowing Mason to show scouts and college coaches what he could do on the mound this summer. Mason jumped at the opportunity to try out for the Oakland A’s Area Code all-star team in July. Though he did not make the 25-man roster, Mason did get three outs in just eight pitches in a simulated game and showed dozens of college coaches his 92 mph fastball and crafty changeup. “That was the big showcase for me,” Mason said. “They invited the top 100 players in Northern California and it’s one of the best run showcases. That was a big thing to put my name out there.” After inducing a double-play ground ball, Mason got Elk Grove star Ryan Tellez to fly out in his brief outing at the showcase. “That was the best talent we’ve ever seen,” said Ryan’s mother Allison, who never misses her son’s games and serves as the scorekeeper at Placer. “They were only allowed to throw 15 pitches because there were so many kids there. He got the three outs and that’s all he was allowed to do.” The brief outing, along with a handful of other showcases, helped draw the interest of St. Mary’s, along with UC Davis, Santa Clara, Washington, Chico State, San Jose State, Sacramento State and the University of San Francisco. A recent visit to the Moraga campus and the sincerity of coach Jedd Soto convinced Mason that it was the place for him. “For me, it was the coaches,” Mason said. “They were a perfect fit for me. They’re very pitcher oriented. And Moraga is beautiful.” Mason’s parents are thrilled he will be just a short drive away. His father Bob was an ambidextrous pitcher until he gave up the game to focus on basketball early in high school. Bob went on to play hoops at Cabrillo College and briefly at Sacramento State. He’s now the sales manager at Auburn Hardwoods, where Allison works as an accountant. Bob’s father John B. Mason played baseball at Santa Clara and tried out for the San Francisco Seals back in the 1940s. Ryan said his father taught him to throw a changeup when he was just 8 and the pitch has become one of his trademarks. Others are his 6-6 frame and long brown hair. It’s not a coincidence he admires Giants’ ace Tim Lincecum. “I love watching Lincecum,” Mason said. “He’s a real role model. He’s just dominant on the mound.” Mason’s brother Jeff is also a major influence. He was a tough right-handed pitcher for the Hillmen before graduating in 2007. “He pitched through a lot of hardship at Placer,” Mason said. “He broke his arm, then came back the next day and threw. I looked up to him a lot.” Now that his injury is behind him and his baseball future is solidified with St. Mary’s, Mason is looking forward to enjoying his senior year at Placer and making the most of some special opportunities on the field. This weekend he will try out for the Colorado Rockies’ fall scout team. “With the showcases, there was a lot of pressure on me at all times to stay healthy and pitch well,” Mason said. “To have this pressure off during the baseball season, I won’t have to worry about having a bad outing. It’s just a load off. It was a big decision and my family was there with me and everything was just right. I’m just grateful for everything.”