Choosing between a full-ride scholarship to Gonzaga University or a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates was one of the toughest decisions Mason Martin ever made.
But as the July 15 deadline to make that decision approached, a certain aspect of the latter option never lost its luster.
“It’s living out the dream,” said Martin, a Southridge High School graduate. “It’s every young ball player’s dream, every kid in their back yard is saying they’re Ken Griffey Jr. or Willie Stargell when they’re hitting Wiffle Balls over their backyard fence.
“It’s just living out your dream, and you have a great time doing it.”
Even though he decided to turn pro, Martin made it clear he still plans on getting his degree at some point. The Pirates will take care of him in that regard, as his contract includes money that can only be used to pursue his education.
“Say in three years I forget how to swing a bat and they have to cut me,” Martin said. “Then I can go back to school and not pay a dime. That was really kind of what pushed it over the edge to play pro ball for me.
“That’s what I said from Day 1, ‘whether it’s right after high school or maybe a few years down the road, either way I do want to get a degree.’ Getting an education after high school is very important, and it’s not just going to help me be a better baseball player, it’ll help me be a better person.”
Martin signed his contract in Pittsburgh and was given a tour of the city and PNC Park, which he described as “easily one of the best ballparks I’ve ever seen.” In addition to the formalities, he said the team laid out some baseline expectations for him as he begins his professional career.
“This first year, maybe two, it’s not necessarily about results on the field, it’s about getting used to the lifestyle,” he said. “Really what they want me to do is have a great attitude every day, bust my butt in the weight room and on the field, work hard and be a great teammate. The rest will take care of itself, because we’re all good ballplayers around here.
“Really what separates the good ballplayers from the great ones is who does the little things the best. And that’s what they really push.”
His career will begin in the next few days, as he’s already arrived in Bradenton, Fla., where the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League rookie team resides.
Martin spent some time pitching and playing first base in his senior season at Southridge, but he figures he’ll primarily be a right fielder in the Pirates’ organization. He said the team will give him a shot at all the corner infield and outfield positions in an attempt to keep his powerful bat in the lineup.
“Basically they said they just want to keep a bat in my hands,” he said. “And that’s kind of how I feel too. I don’t exactly care where I play as long as I’m in the lineup hitting the baseball.”
Martin was an integral part of the Suns’ team that finished second in the state this season, the baseball program’s best placement since winning it all in 2004. Southridge beat Mercer Island 5-4 in the semifinal game at Safeco Field before falling to Gig Harbor 5-1 in the championship.