Connor Mason has a different background than most pitching prospects for Monday’s major-league baseball draft.
Mason was home schooled from kindergarten until his recent graduation.
The Suwanee resident has signed a baseball scholarship with Rice. Mason, who has been clocked at 94 mph, was projected to be drafted within the top 10 rounds before a recent elbow injury.
“He was really looking forward to making a statement to the baseball scouts this spring, ” said his father, Mike Mason. “Maybe a team will still draft him. But if he ends up going to Rice, then that’s a great thing, too.”
How did Mason do it? How did he earn the Division I baseball scholarship and get looks from pro scouts while being a home schooled student? Mason got high visibility after playing for club teams during the summer and fall seasons the past three years. MLB’s scouting service called earlier this week to get an update on Mason.
“I definitely think he’s still going to get drafted despite the injury, ” said Ryan Sterling, head instructor at the 6-4-3 DP Baseball Academy.
“The scouts have seen Connor enough times, and they know what he can do. They love the way he makes everything look effortlessly with his [pitching technique]. They like his frame — the real long arms and the wide shoulders — and they see someone who can throw with a lot of velocity with little effort.
“He will get drafted. Whether or not he takes [the opportunity] is another story. School is very important to Connor.”
Mason grew up in Virginia Beach, Va., and moved to the Atlanta area five years ago. His father has been a Delta pilot for 22 years, which played a factor in the couple’s decision to home school both Connor and his sister, Jessie Mason, who is a sophomore on Georgia Tech’s swim team.
“Every year we asked our kids ‘Should we continue doing the home schooling or not? Every year, they wanted to continue, ” Mike said. “We were able to do a lot of traveling, which we think is an important part of the education process.”
For nearly a dozen years, the Mason family traveled for four months each year, visiting places such as Europe, Asia, Australia and Hawaii. The world tour slowed a bit when Connor earned a spot on USA Baseball’s Junior National Team in 2007.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Mason played on the same elite team with Bryce Harper of Las Vegas, who is projected to be Monday’s No. 1 overall pick by the Washington Nationals. The two roomed together for Team USA tournaments to Mexico and Venezuela during the past two summers.
In the springs, Mason played baseball for the Greater Gwinnett Christian Barons, which is made up of home schooled students from the area. They compete against GISA private schools. Mason was injured in his first pitching outing in March.
“It was cold that night, I threw a fastball and felt pain, ” Mason said. “I got it checked out and was diagnosed with a bone avulsion [ligament or tendon attached to the bone pulls away from the bone].
“Surgery wasn’t required. I just shut everything down and let it heal. I feel like I’m back at 100 percent and am scheduled to start throwing again next week.”
Note: According to major-league scouts, this projects to be one of the strongest classes for Georgia high school players in years. Here are some other top prospects for the the June 7 draft: