Coming into the spring of 2020, Lehigh right-handed pitcher Mason Black was looking to improve upon a solid first year as a collegiate baseball player. But, due to the Coronavirus pandemic shutting down spring sports shortly after many of them had just begun, Black was not able to continue his growth playing for the Mountain Hawks.
Instead, he was given the chance to show his stuff in the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League playing with the Boca Raton Blazers. During this summer, he hasn’t squandered the opportunity, in his six outings he has blown by opponents with an impressive fastball, which sits in the mid-90s, while also keeping them on their toes with the continued development of his offspeed pitches.
“I definitely feel very comfortable throwing almost all my offspeed pitches in any count,” said Black. “So it’s always gonna be a focus, just refining that and, trying to make them the best strikeout pitches they can be.”
Over 23 innings pitched for the Blazers, he’s surrendered only two earned runs (0.78 ERA), while striking out 34. In addition to those numbers, the Blazers are 5-1 in the six games Black has pitched in.
The Archbald, PA native hasn’t always been a pitcher though, prior to being recruited by Lehigh, he primarily played catcher for Valley View High School. But, about halfway through his high school career his coach let him pitch, because he knew his catcher had some serious arm strength. As he continued to grow as a pitcher more and more colleges began to take note of his potential.
“We said ‘There's another level to come,’ because I can't teach being that athletic and pitchers tend to repeat the mechanics well and get a little stronger, some throwing harder,” said Lehigh University baseball head coach Sean Laery . “We kind of just saw what was there, but then a focus on just pitching and the fact that he was fresh. Again, we we definitely thought there was another level coming,”
Once Black arrived at Lehigh he continued to prove why he belonged there due to his hard work ethic and bulldog mentality. During his freshman year, Black had his appendix removed and was forced to miss out on eight weeks. He would eventually return a bit earlier than expected to play and lost significant velocity to his fastball dropping into the 80s. He finished the year with a 4.38 ERA over 33 innings.
“I don't want to make excuses for him, but that's not an excuse, he should have probably taken another month off,” said Leary. “...we had two injuries going on and he literally walks out one day and goes ‘I'm pitching today.’”
In the summer of his freshman season, he was able to play in the Cape Cod Baseball League in Massachusetts for the Brewster Whitecaps. While on the Cape, he proved that he had the velocity and strength that wasn’t around during spring, going 3-0 over 36.2 innings with 39 strikeouts and a 1.47 ERA. He even earned a spot in the 2019 Cape Cod League All Star Game. This season, he will be the starting pitcher for the North Division in the SFCBL All Star Game.
Black’s abilities have not gone unnoticed this summer in south Florida, he has begun to draw attention from Major League Baseball scouts and shoot up 2021 MLB mock drafts. Even with rumors of possible first-round potential, the 6’3” right-hander hasn’t let his ego get the best of him.
“Professional baseball has been a dream of mine to go into my whole life, but you can't put the cart in front of a horse here,” said Black. “The draft is still a while away, I just have to put that attention almost in the backburner, be cordial and still get about doing my thing so I can be better the next time out so they have a reason to come back.”
Black will look to help the Blazers make a final playoff push in the final week of the season, as of 7/25, Boca Raton (14-18) the 7th seed and need to move up to the 6th to earn a playoff spot. They are one game behind the Ft. Lauderdale Knights (14-17) and both teams will have six games left including a head-to-head matchup on July 27 at 10 AM at the Santaluces Sports Complex in Boynton Beach, FL.
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