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Sports Person of the Week
Erwin Brought it as the Warriors’ Backstop
Mason Erwin posted a strong sophomore campaign with the Valley Regional baseball team this year. Mason began the year as a backup catcher, but caught fire at the plate and moved into the starting role by season’s end. (Photo courtesy of Sharon Erwin)
Mason Erwin put together a solid sophomore season with the Valley Regional baseball squad. Mason earned the Coaches’ Award with the Warriors at the catcher position alongside good friend and fellow sophomore catcher Lucas Rogers.
Mason and Rogers elevated each others’ games, and eventually Head Coach Brian Drinkard moved Rogers to short, while Mason took over the starting catcher position. The move paid divdends as the Warriors earned a share of the Shoreline Conference Tournament crown this season.
Mason considers earning the Coaches’ Award one his proudest athletic accomplishments so far. To do that with one of his closest friends has been an amazing experience.
“Getting the Coaches’ Award was really cool. Lucas and [I] have been friends for a long time,” says Mason. “We had that catching competition and mostly split time throughout the season. We had it worked out. Coach Drinkard eventually put Lucas at shortstop, and then I got to catch.”
Mason and the Warriors had a memorable Shoreline Conference Tournament run, but unfortunately the squad was unable to battle Coginchaug in the final round due to multiple days of torrential rain that lasted until the start of state tournaments. Losing out on competing in a conference final was disappointing for Mason, but he feels some consolation in the fact that Valley was named a co-champion.
“The team was great. We definitely had the talent and the capability to go far. It’s complicated. It was unfortunate that we had to miss the final and share it with another town, but at least we get the title,” Mason says. “I wish we got to play it because we were robbed from playing at Palmer Field. It’s not the worst thing that could have happened, but I wish we could have played it.”
Mason was easily able to put the lost final in perspective after his whole team missed out on the 2020 spring season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After an entirely canceled season, a co-championship didn’t seem so bad to Mason. Also losing his freshman season just inspired Mason to work harder to get ready for his sophomore year.
“Not having the final wasn’t as bad as losing my freshman season. It was rough, but it was good motivation to work harder for the season coming up,” says Mason, who lives in Essex. “Basically, my parents were nice enough to get me a bunch of stuff I could use at home. I set up my own gym. I had a pitching machine feed me balls to I could work on catching. It was like all I did. I just worked really hard over the offseason when I couldn’t do anything else.”
When Mason was finally able to take the field for the Warriors, he found it was worth the wait.
“Getting on the field felt amazing. I hadn’t played high school baseball yet, and it was a big change. It felt really nice to get on a baseball field again, after like a year and a half,” Mason says. “It was a big adjustment that I had to make, but if you just practice at it, you will slowly get better and better. Soon enough, I just had it down.”
Mason’s only sport is baseball, and during the Valley off seasons, he plays catcher and center fielder with the CT Hurricanes AAU baseball team. The AAU game feels a lot different than high school varsity to Mason.
“I’d say the major difference is that there are a lot more games in AAU. With the Hurricanes I pay like 60 games in the summer. I feel like high school is a little more competitive because it’s a shorter time to win,” Mason says. “With the Hurricanes, it’s a bit less stressful because you have more time, and you get to play in tournaments, too.”
As a catcher, Mason has the unique perspective compared to most of his teammates. On defense, Mason lines up behind the plate, and on offense he steps up to it instead. While Mason has always been solid behind the plate, he feel that this year his offensive skills have improved.
“When you’re catching, it’s really important to know the stuff of the pitchers that you are catching. Like, what he has, what’s good, and what’s not. You have to know your pitchers well. That’s basically the key to it,” Mason says. “I feel like this season I was pretty equal catching and hitting. My hitting really came around. I’m more of an up-the-middle or opposite-field hitter. I like pitches away, outside because I really like going opposite field.”
Mason got his start playing baseball thanks to his father Mark Erwin, who was scouted by the Minnesota Twins. Mark Erwin grew up pitching for East Hampton, and so he is able to help Mason develop his catching skills firsthand. Mason also tried his hand at pitching, but has found that he has more of a knack for receiving the baseball than throwing it.
“I started playing when I was seven years old. My dad got scouted by the Twins, so baseball’s always kind of been in my family. That’s sort of what inspired me to play,” says Mason. “My dad definitely throws me batting practice a lot. He’s one of my coaches as much as all of my other coaches. He’s really helped me along the way.”
Coach Drinkard enjoyed seeing each of his catchers supporting each other throughout the season. Once Drinkard made the move to lean on Mason everyday as the backstop, he knew he made the right choice.
“Mason is a really great kid. He is unselfish. He started the season as a one-game-a-week catcher behind his friend Lucas Rogers. Mason got hot with his bat and ended up being the everyday catcher for us down the stretch,” says Drinkard. “They both handled the situation with maturity beyond their years. They always had each other’s back and genuinely hoped for each other’s success. Mason works hard in practice and is always willing to catch extra bullpens and live batting practice. He’s quiet and confident, or as Coach Nick Mardjekaj would say, ‘He’s hungry and humble.’ Mason should have strong junior and senior seasons at Valley.”
Mason is firmly concentrating working hard for his Warriors and Hurricanes squads, but the eventual goal will be to continue playing at the collegiate level. Mason knows as long as he puts in the work, he has a shot at fulfilling that goal.
“I definitely want to play in college. I really want to go Coastal Carolina. They have a really good baseball program, and my mom, Sharon, is an alumni. My mom went to Valley, too,” says Mason. “The biggest thing is just don’t lose sight of your goals and always work hard. Good things happen when you do that.”