SALEM, Ore.–Sitting on the metal bleachers after hanging out in the dugout with the North Salem summer baseball team before their baseball game versus South Albany was a familiar face and a familiar voice recognizable to those who were hanging around the Schaffer ballpark late June of 2016.
Joking and talking around about the cultural differences between that of Australia and the United States of America was Melbourne’s Nick Mason and recent North Salem-graduate Jared Lund as they continued their conversation with the team in the dugout to the bleachers as if it was last summer.
“It’s totally awesome, I was just thinking about how you don’t get to see people like this everyday, he comes all the way across the world,” “He’s from another different continent not just like down south like Mexico or something, like a totally different continent and he came all the way down here and he didn’t have to but he passed through and stopped for us and see us and that’s totally awesome to see him and reliving those memories that we went through last year and stuff.”
Last summer, Mason was part of one of the two Perth Heat Colts Varsity squads that made the trip to the States to play baseball over the summer, baking in the sun in California, the downpour and wet conditions during the DeMarini Wood Bat Tournament in Oregon and so on.
But hey, Mason remembered the good times at North Salem, sharing stories about what last summer as he describes being back at North for the first-time since that faithful summer.
“It’s pretty sweet, I mean I haven’t seen some of these guys in over a year now,” said Mason on coming back to the Schaf almost a year after the fact. “It’s good to comeback and check on how people are going and how things have changed and how they are moving forward.
“It’s definitely unforgettable, it’s not everyday that you get to travel halfway across the world and get to meet people, I mean how many times are you going to travel halfway across the world and see these people day-in, day-out for a couple of weeks-on end. I mean, it’s kind of breath-taken because it’s something not too many people get the chance to do. But yeah, it’s really good to be back.”
The Summer of 2016 was something spectacular for Mason as the Australian and his teammates made the rounds around certain locations, a once-in-a-life-time opportunity though Mason injured his arm in the team’s spot following Salem in the Lakeridge Firecracker tournament.
“Even though I was hurt it was still good because I was able to make a lot of life-long friends and was still able to do everything I could do off-the-field even though I couldn’t play on the field, it was still great to be apart of a family and just living the dream out here.”
Now fast-forward to the Summer of 2017, Mason, now a High School Graduate is now touring the United States of America with planned stops in Seattle, Chicago and New York Mason said; watching Major League Baseball games and checking out some spots in the country and taking some time-off to heal up.
A ‘Gap-Year’ as Mason calls it as the ‘PO’, Pitcher-Only will try to make a run at a comeback at a Junior College in the States.
Now why not stay in Australia and play? It’s a strange situation as baseball isn’t one of the ‘Major’-sports as it is here in America, a matter of fact it was described last summer to be almost like how soccer is here; people play it but it’s not the sport.
And here’s how Mason describes the situation that baseball players have in Australia, and keep in mind Spring is our Fall in the States, Fall (or Autumn) in Australia is our Spring and their winter is our summer:
“Once you get to your state level in Australia, that’s it. Once you play for your state, you can only then go forward and play for your country. Our baseball systems is quite different, so we start at the club ball level, which is kind of what you guys have here, and we play from Spring until start of Autumn and then we have a winter season that we play through as well which isn’t as competitive and you can do things like what we call ‘School-Boys’ back home which is you represent your State, but you have to be a student and then once you get out of under-18’s then that’s all you can do and your only options are to go Internationally to keep playing. So when I get back it’s what I’m aiming to do, get over here and keep living the dream.
“I mean I’ve been thinking about this since, I don’t know 14. I’ve been playing baseball since I was maybe six. I mean I just love it.”
A lot of information, but here’s some clarification:
Club ball is like High School baseball, the State-level is like college ball, but it last two weeks. Baseball games are once a week outside of the State-Level which is like what we’re used to in America of baseball everyday, maybe twice-a-day with doubleheaders.
Once your at the State level, there’s six states in Australia and ten federal territories, you spend a few months training and spend about a week-and-a-half in Sydney and playing against the other states in kind of a ‘National Championship’ to see who’s the best in the Country then you go home and that’s the end of the road in terms of how high you can go in baseball in Australia.
With his goal set in mind to come back to America to continue his playing career as a pitcher, Mason knows that he’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that he is first, healthy enough to pitch in College, second of all determine how he can pitch even if it’s going from left-to-right-handed.
“It’s pretty simple, I’m shit at anywhere but the mound,” laughed Mason. “So if I can’t throw it on the top, I’ll throw side-armed. I’m going to do whatever it takes to get back on the mound, I don’t care if I have to learn to throw right-handed, I’m going to get back over here and play ball at the highest-level I can.”
As Travis Burger gets the strikeout to end the top half of the inning to start the game in the Vikings 4-0 win over the Rebels, the folklore of the Drop Bear story lives on with Lund that Mason told some of the North Salem Baseball team, Lund and yours truly as we believe that their was a carnivorous Kola Bear in the Land of Down Under that preys on innocent tourist.
“Oh my gosh I thought that was real and I was seriously scared,” said Lund in a joking fashion. “I was like, ‘yeah I could visit Australia it sounds pretty cool, I’ll come visit Nick’, then he told me about ’em DropBears and I’m like, ‘uh huh’, no more those things are going to kill me they’re all over the place
Let’s just say it was a little weird at first because of how well Mason not just sold the story as he does every time he tells a story, but Mason kept a straight face for the 10-or-so-minutes until we Googled it and found out the truth that way haha; but the North Salem team got Mason back last summer by re-citing the Outback Steakhouse commercial we have in America.