“I always had baseball No. 1 in my heart,” said Mason, a standout linebacker, who also saw time at running back throughout his career.
Mason Sr. said many thought he’d be a football star at the next level when the former tailback graduated from Oxford in 1988. He wound up being a three-time All-Southwestern Athletic Conference choice in baseball at Alabama State.
“Baseball was in my family. I loved baseball,” the elder Mason said. “Anybody who knows the Masons out of Hobson City, they’ll know that that’s all we did is play baseball.”
Mason Jr. was briefly courted by his father’s alma mater in football, but the talks never materialized. It wasn’t until the Yellow Jackets’ state finals series against Fairhope that that he heard from coaches from Miles.
However, it wasn’t the first time they’d heard of him.
Miles assistant Ty Roberts, a 2006 Oxford alumnus, was on-hand for Tuesday’s ceremony. He said the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder was right at the top of the Golden Bears’ recruiting board before the season began. They decided to evaluate him thoroughly throughout the regular season before extending an offer and came to watch him in person during the state championship.
“From that moment, I was sold that he was a kid that I wanted on my team,” Roberts said. “He displayed great attitude. Never saw a helmet being thrown. That’s ultimately what we look at: How the kid reacts to adversity.”
Mason Jr. finished the season with a .308 batting average, going 24-for-78 at the plate with 18 RBIs on 24 hits, including a home run, while striking out 14 times. He also stole five bases, was walked three times and compiled a .325 on-base percentage.
His signing makes him the ninth member of the Yellow Jackets’ state championship team to sign a college scholarship. Catcher Alex Muncher is expected to walk-on at Jacksonville State University.
Mason Jr. is expected to immediately help a Golden Bears’ team which finished 24-18 last season and earned a No. 2 seed in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic conference tournament.
From the top-notch pitching he faced in practice to the national schedule the Yellow Jackets played this past season, Mason Jr. said he’s ready for the next level.
“I don’t think if I would’ve played for another team that I would’ve saw the practice reps that I’ve seen from Tucker Simpson, Zach Lovvorn, Jackson Stephens with the BP (batting practice) they throw.” Mason Jr. said.
It took a while but in the end it would’ve been hard to script a better ending to Mason Jr.’s high school career.
It began with a trip to state semifinals in football, a state championship in baseball and now a college scholarship.
“I just can’t explain how good that makes me feel that I’m able to get my son to a level that he’s able to go and play college ball,” Mason Sr. said.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.