With four commits already in, the California baseball team recently added Auburn (Calif.) Placer right-handed pitcher Ryan Mason to its 2012 signing class, which will sign national letters of intent tomorrow.
Three weeks ago, after getting a late offer from the Bears, Mason decided to flip his commitment from St. Mary's, and pledge his services to pitching coach Mike Neu and Cal.
"I feel very strongly about St. Mary's, I loved the school, loved the program; I just felt that it wasn't for me," Mason said. "I felt that Cal was just a better fit, and it just came up at the right time.
"They offered late, and I had no idea that they were even interested until three weeks ago."
Mason was particularly taken with Neu -- who replaced departed pitching coach Dan Hubbs over the summer -- and his track record.
Click Here to view this Link. "Mike Neu, the new pitching coach over at Cal, he's an awesome guy, he's really nice," Mason said. "I looked at his track record from his career when he played, and he's a good luck charm. He was on the MiamiClick Here to view this Link. national championship team and he was the guy on the mound when they won it. At his junior college at Sac City, I believe, he was an All-American and was 17-0 with like a 1.70 ERA and he had a 16 strikeouts per nine innings average, which is insane. He's one of the nicest guys I've ever met in my life."
At 6-foot-5, 215 pounds, Mason is a big-bodied projected power pitcher with a heavy sinker that he uses as his everyday fastball, a darting change which he says is his "go-to strikeout pitch," and a developing slurve.
"It's definitely picking up," Mason said of his slurve. "It's definitely getting much better."
Mason is on the mend after suffering through nerve issues in his throwing arm during the 2011 season, in which he went 2-3 with a 4.54 ERA.
"I was not fully ready for the season, yet, because we had that huge rain delay throughout the high school season last year that was like, 35 days, or something like that," Mason said. "The day after all of our gym practices, we had a game, and it was in 36-degree weather, and I threw for a little over 95 pitches in that game. It was cold and my arm wasn't warmed up, so one of my nerves slipped into one of the slots in my shoulder. That was very painful at the time, but I tried to pitch through it, because I could still throw a ball, just not with as much effectiveness. I tried to pitch through it, and it really took a hit on my ERA."
In order to get himself right, Mason went to regular deep tissue massage sessions, and this summer, his sinker-as-fastball was clocked as high as 93 mph.
Mason paid close attention during last spring's dominant storyline in college baseball, as the Bears went from having no future as a program to becoming the darlings of the College World Series, coming home to a reinstated program, which just celebrated the one-year anniversary of the day it was cut.
"Absolutely I paid attention to that whole thing, and it was just amazing to see the chemistry out of the Cal team," Mason said. "It was incredible. You never see that, because that entire team was like a family, and they just rode that wave all the way to the College World Series. That was really something."
The Gaels, UC Davis, Santa Clara, Washington, Chico State, San Jose State, Sacramento State and San Francisco were among Mason's other suitors.
The Bears now currently have five scholarship athletes coming in with this class, including Max Dutto, Grant Diede, Mitchell Kranson and Cal Becker.