You can never judge a book by its cover. Right? At least that's what our mother has told us since we were like 5 years old. If you knew Mason Walker, the word "Struggle" wouldn't come to mind - but instead words like charismatic, talented & confidence would. But this wasn't always the case for Mason.
It takes a ton of courage to look in the mirror, be honest with yourself, interrogate your strengths & admit to your weaknesses. But I promise you, when you are able to do this, growth is the next step that follows! I also promise you that there will be plenty more times in your life when doubt creeps in and you will need to hold on strong to what your First Principles because it'll be all you got!
This kid is special and I couldn't be more proud of him for the man he has become and the diligence he displays in his craft.
T.S Elliot (one of the 20th centuries major poets) once said...
"we must not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time".
Mason grew up around the game of baseball. He always had great success. Baseball was his identity. Through the games ups & majors downs, countless hours of training, many steepness nights and long days, Mason has truly created his own identity. Is baseball a big part of that? Absolutely! But the game of baseball doesn't define who this young man is. Mason is now just arriving where he began - on the ball field as a 6 year old kid taking ground balls with dad in the front yard. He's now a dude who can stand on his own two feet. A dude who has a plan and trusts his own process. A dude who is willing to accept failures and pick up teammates even when he goes 0-4. A dude who has a humble sense of confidence and understands that confidence is an expression of feelings one has about himself than merely a response to social reward.
I consider it my extreme pleasure to have spent almost every day over the last few years with Mason. It is without hesitation that I say that this dude will be successful in not only baseball but whatever he chooses to do in the future!
From as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a baseball player. I can think back to when I was 6 years old taking ground balls in my front yard working on footwork with my dad. I have always had a desire to be the best. Growing up playing through Red Land Little League I was always a team leader. I batted 3rd and played shortstop my whole life. As I started travel ball I played up against kids much older. I can think back to hopping out of the car as a 11-year-old and playing against kids who drove themselves to the game. I always felt I had an edge and could do anything I put my mind to, and that was a mindset my parents instilled in me at a very young age when I began competing at sports.
As I wrapped up my 8th grade year, high school looked like a dream to me. By this time, I was sure I had done all I could to make sure everyone knew who I was. The summer of 8th grade was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had playing baseball. I was playing 17u baseball as the starting shortstop on a York Revs team. This team not only beat Phenom National but also World Champion Tri-State Arsenal 16u to win the Perfect Game qualifier to earn a bid to Lake point, GA. High school baseball couldn’t come fast enough for me.
Entering my freshman year at Red Land High School, the Varsity shortstop position was wide open. I had my sights set on it, thinking I was the best. I was confident as I went through all the winter workouts expecting to be the Varsity shortstop. To my disappointment, I made JV. This was a humbling experience for me. Growing up everyone told me I was the best shortstop anyone has seen come through Red Land and my goal was to play Varsity. I didn't understand it at the time and my confidence and the chip on my shoulder that always set me apart was gone. I sunk to the lowest point of my young career. That freshman year I was a bench warmer, playing the occasional inning at second or third base when we were blowing a team out or getting crushed. I was truly ready to give up baseball after that year. I just thought I had lost my way with the game. It wasn't until I had that "Aha" moment when I realized I needed to get better!
Later that Summer I came in to FullReps with a friend and rival, Jimmy Losh, just to get a lift in. I fell in love with the atmosphere. At the time I was a little fish in a big sea and felt out of place in there. When I met “Swanny” something just flipped in my head. I went home one day and raved about how awesome this dude was and how I love it in the facility. I began working out every day at FullReps: lifting, taking ground balls, hitting, running, and just improving my self-confidence. Slowly but surely, I started to see results and felt the itch to be the best again. Baseball was what I focused on all day every day, just trying my hardest to be the best baseball player I could be. Looking back to the beginning of my freshmen year, I wasn't mature enough for varsity ball. I needed to experience a little bit of failure before making the next big developmental jump in my career.
Entering my sophomore year, I didn’t speak about how much I worked on my craft. In my head everyone had already given up on me, and I kind of loved being an underdog. I wanted to prove to myself that I was best and I certainly wanted to prove everyone wrong. This combination absolutely drove me to work my ass off. That year I went from being the bench warmer, the kid that just didn’t pan out, to being the starting varsity 3rd baseman. All the work was starting to pay off. I was now being seen as a Division 1 baseball prospect and I sure as heck thought I was. I'm not going to lie when I say that I loved that everyone went from doubting me to praising me. But I was more in love with the process that I had built for myself because at the end of the day.....I was the one who cried at night because I didn’t play, I was the one who busted my ass to improve MYSELF. I just wanted to continue to get better and steer clear of all of the other noise (good or bad).
The winter of my sophomore year I trained every single day. I was making great increases in my overall strength, speed and arm strength and was starting to fill out my 6’2” frame. I got on an extensive eating schedule and supplement diet that was created by my trainer Coach JonoVan at FullReps. He pushed me each and every day to work as hard as I could, and every night after leaving his workout the tank was emptied.
Junior year I was established as a high-level baseball player and I had it in my head that nobody could outwork me. I went out and had a great year but again, still no college commitment. Everyone around me was committing and it was an extremely stressful time for me. I was so happy for all of my teammates but man was it was the hardest and most selfless thing I ever had to go through. There were days were I hated everything and doubt would creep in.
I remember one day Swanny text me and said "let’s go to breakfast and talk". We were close, and I trusted him with understanding how I felt. He picked me up, we had breakfast and after that day, the fire was stronger than ever. He believed in me so much but at the same time provided me with so much honest feedback to help me improve.
That summer I went out and tore up every tournament playing the best shortstop I could play. The whole season I only had 1 error. It was all starting to pan out just like Swanny had said at breakfast that morning. I was sure I was going to get committed. But again, it didn’t happen. I had gotten some interest but no school was ready to pull the trigger on me. I had one visit with a college that saw me play the last game of the summer. I didn’t have 1 ball hit to me the entire game, but in warm-ups I threw 91 mph across the infield. All the work came together for one ground ball in warm-ups when the coach had the radar on me. They called me after the game and were extremely interested. I thought this was going to be it! After a long awesome weekend, I came home with nothing as they still wanted to wait and see me play again out on the field the next spring. Once again, the pressure was really hitting me but I knew I had a plan. I knew I would be a division I athlete sooner or later. I have failed so many times and each time I was getting closer and closer to achieving my goal of playing college baseball.
The entire winter crept by and I worked harder and smarter than I ever had in my life. I was in contact with some schools. I even went to a few camps but I kept getting the same feedback from every school I spoke to. "Mason, we love you as a ball player but we just don't have a spot". I mean I get it. There's only so many roster spots on a team but come on!!!!! it was now the middle of the winter of my senior year and again I hit my lowest of lows. I cant exactly tell you what got me out of it but I can say that I knew the fire was still there and I knew I had the team of FullReps coaches around me to continue to help me get there! There was no way I was quitting now!
Fast forward to March 30th when I get an email from the University of Pitt coach letting me know he's coming out to watch me play. My Senior season had just recently started and I was a whooping 0-10 with 7K's. But this didn't bother me as I knew deep down that I was going to break out and do what I do best when it mattered the most. April 2nd rolls around and its a home game vs Mifflin. I got into the facility the night before to get my reps in and mentally prepare before having to perform in front of Pitt the next day. I felt ready. I felt grateful. I felt excited.
The game rolls around and I was never so locked in. I had this burning desire to perform at my highest level knowing this might be my last chance at a Division I offer. On a cold day in April at RLHS, I went 2-3 and barreled all 3 balls up. I was a teammate before anything and couldn't be more proud of my team for going out there and competing with me. It was a magical night on that field and for the first time ever, I knew it was coming!
Here we are 4 days later and I am proud to announce that I have committed to play Division I baseball in the ACC and I am now a Pitt Panther!
"Trusting the process" is the expression often used for the tough journey to reach a goal. The process is not always fair, not always truthful and certainly not always enjoyable. My process to finding the right fit to continue my dream has finally come to an exciting end for me. The staff at Pitt baseball has made me feel like part of their family and I am honored and excited to be a Pitt Panther.
I cannot thank my family, friends, coaches and teammates enough for all the support during this process.
Thank you to all of the incredible people at FullReps that pushed me and held me accountable every single day to be better. I don't know where I would be without you all!