By Rick Assad
Two players on the baseball diamond are involved in every play and they are the pitcher and the catcher.
Mason Medina, a recent Burroughs High graduate was the latter and when behind home plate it seemed there was something special at work between him and the hurler standing on the hill.
Maybe it was a sort of synchronicity with Gunnar Nichols, who will be pitching for Pepperdine University, Devan McGivern, who will be on the mound for Morningside University in Iowa and Nick Forrest, who will be a senior in the fall.
“I have no trouble being relaxed and calm in situations due to the fact that I have had a lot of experience,” said Medina, who will be attending Cal State San Marcos and will continue his baseball career. “Throughout my high school career, I have had opportunities to play in high stakes games with a ton of pressure put upon me. Those games in the past made me mentally stronger and I was able to handle a stressful situation like a CIF championship game.”
Medina, who played four years and was a three-year varsity starter and a three-year captain, was always under control.
“While there was a ton of pressure resting on me during the season as a captain and the catcher, I honestly felt very little,” he said. “By the way our team was playing it gave me confidence that later made the pressure go away. Our pitchers and hitters were all dominant, making the games not stressful most of the time.”
The Bears pushed through with a 23-11 overall mark and an 11-3 record in the Pacific League for second place this campaign and had many impressive wins.
None was bigger or more meaningful than beating Moreno Valley 1-0 in the Division V title game at Cal State Fullerton’s Goodwin Field.
This victory was the first in the school’s history for the baseball program.
“This season is one our entire team will remember for the rest of our lives. As a team we knew we could achieve such a goal of winning a CIF championship. Every day we were dedicated to perfecting our craft whether it be hitting, fielding, pitching, or our mentality,” Medina said. “We were so focused on being the best every time we stepped onto any field we were playing on. Another amazing thing about our team is that everyone bought into the fact that they had a role. If each player was able to fulfill that role during the game at their highest ability, then there was no beating us. Being able to trust every teammate on the field brought up the team’s confidence to a whole other level.”
That victory versus the Vikings capped an incredible season and it saw Medina’s single to right field knock in the only run.
“Before the season started our goal was to win a ring no matter what it took,” he said. “Now looking back at the entire season, it is crazy to think about. The dream of winning that CIF championship had become a reality and there is no true feeling to describe that.”
That at-bat in the fourth inning off ace Frank Camarillo, who will be pitching for UC Santa Barbara, shines a light on Medina’s concentration and skill.
Of course, he didn’t get a hit in every at-bat, but when a base hit was needed, Medina was usually clutch.
“My approach at the plate wouldn’t vary much from pitcher to pitcher. One thing I was good at was finding gaps and hitting fast balls,” he pointed out. “I used that approach to drive balls to right centerfield, up the middle, and to right centerfield. Staying short with my swing and not trying to do too much with the fastball allowed for me to be very successful at the plate.”
Burroughs coach Matt Magallon knows Medina’s value and what his presence meant to the Bears.
“We do not have the championship run without Mason leading our team,” he said. “His ability to lead peers gave our team confidence and I have never been a part of a team that has better leadership than this team.”
Magallon just finished his third season and spoke about Medina’s overall value.
“Mason was a three-year unanimous captain voted by his teammates,” he said. “Not only is he an amazing teammate but he is an amazing friend and person.”
It’s never easy to begin a new job, but Magallon was helped immensely by dedicated and determined players like Medina.
“I was so lucky to have him in the program. Taking over a program and trying to have players buy into our philosophies was challenging but Mason, being the leader, helped guide our program to the standards that we have now,” he noted. “I’m so proud to have coached Mason and I am excited for the next chapter in his baseball journey. He knows that Burroughs and I will always be there for him if needed and the family bond that we have in our program is a reflection of the life and support he showed his teammates.”
Knowing the pitching staff and being in sync are essential. Luckily for Medina, he was ready for the challenge.
“Calling a game can be a tricky thing but for me it started to click due to the pitchers we had on the mound. The many games I did get to call I used personal judgment and most of the logic from my coaches to help me call the best pitch at that time,” he explained. “I worked with my pitchers as well to understand what pitches they like throwing and when they could be successful throwing those pitches in certain counts. As I gave my pitchers confidence to throw strikes, I felt they became more successful on the mound.”
Being mentally strong is necessary in order to be on the right end of the score in baseball.
“In some cases, I might have a bad at-bat or even a passed ball behind the plate, but I never let that get to me. Being mentally strong is something that made me a successful player. If I had a bad at-bat in one inning, then I would shake it off and put on the gear to go back out there,” Medina said. “My mentality going back onto the field that next inning was to make a play to help my team.”
Medina continued: “I would do anything to save a run or get an out and that would make that last at-bat hurt a lot less,” he pointed out. “I would always reflect briefly during the game over a bad at-bat and think about what I was going to achieve my next time coming up to the plate.”
Practice is one thing but playing the game is where you see the results.
“Game day mostly consisted of me staying relaxed and focused on what job I had to complete that day. Most of the time there was talk of a good pitcher we were facing or the amazing team we were playing but that meant nothing to me,” Medina said. “At the end of the day, the other team had to perform as well as we did and, in most cases, we came out on top. If I stayed focused and did the things I do the best, then I would have an excellent game.”
The Bears didn’t win every game, so it was important to learn from losses. The team and Medina did.
“When things started to go wrong as a team, we all came together and competed as hard as we could. If every player gave their all and still there was no positive result, then there was nothing that we could do,” he said. “As for myself, I would calm myself down and stick to playing baseball the way I have been my whole life. I told myself that nothing changes in stressful times and to continue to battle for the rest of the game. Usually if we all rallied together late in the game, it would end in a positive result.”
Medina said his final season in a Bears’ uniform was something special and it also involved playing in the eight-team CIF Southern California Baseball Championship that included a 10-0 win at home versus Bakersfield and a 10-6 road loss to Fullerton to end the campaign.
“Overall, as a player I had a strong season. I had quality at-bats. I called great games and had a powerful mentality in all aspects of my game,” he said. “After comparing my past seasons, I realized this year I became a stronger, smarter, and more aware player.”
Medina made his mark at Burroughs and when the subject of best player ever to wear the uniform comes up, no doubt his name will be mentioned.
“When I look back at my high school career, I will remember this historic team that I was so glad I could be a part of. I never would have thought I would be able to play with a team so well rounded and so competitive,” he said. “I will also look back at the amazing support we had from specifically Coach Matt and all the many other coaches. To me I would be nowhere without the constant support of them. They pushed me to become the player I am today.”
Medina added: “It was an honor to play for Coach Matt and the entire coaching staff at Burroughs,” he said. “The culture they created during my three years on varsity made the Burroughs baseball program very special.”