J0hnson will be counted on to lead talented but young Comet team

Matthew Smith | Sports Editor

Senior Max Johnson will be one of just two players with varsity experience for Mason.

 In a normal season, the Mason baseball program would be looking to build off what they did last season. But this spring isn’t normal and the last time the Comets took the field was in 2019. 

The Comets will be entering their 2021 season without having played a game in two years. Many teams are dealing with this dilemma, however inexperience will be a major factor the Comets will have to deal with this spring. Seniors Max Johnson and Jaxon Orlando are two players who have plenty of varsity experience and they will be counted on to lead a very young Mason baseball team this spring. 

Not only do the Comets have inexperience but they also have youth. There are six freshman or sophomores on the team who have never played a game in the Mason program. On top of that, all but two juniors on varsity were expected to play junior varsity last season to further their development. 

With all these factors, head coach Curt Bly knows it will be a challenge to get this team back to where it once was, but he believes they are moving toward reaching that point.

“So far I’ve just seen a lot of inexperience,” Bly said. “Losing last year, a year of development and a year of teaching, hurts. The guys are working hard and we are really trying to play catch up. Teaching situational baseball and how you win or lose games has been the focus, and we have seen a lot of growth.”

In the eyes of Bly, the team is already moving in the right direction. However, there have still been growing pains. Sophomore Drew Cox is one of the six kids who has never played in a Mason High School baseball game. For Cox, he said the biggest adjustment is the speed of the game and learning the nuances of varsity baseball.

“The biggest thing is to pick up the pace of my play, and that will hopefully help me perform better,” Cox said. “There are also a lot of new plays and baseball situations us young guys need to learn, all while building chemistry with the team.”

With Bly still figuring out exactly what he has in his team, the players still have their eyes on big goals. Senior Max Johnson said that they aren’t quite there yet, but he believes his teammates can bring home more championships.

“There are a lot of new faces on the team,” Johnson said. “Once we get everyone going in the same direction and work out the kinks, we can be pretty good. We have a lot of pieces and we can definitely compete for a regional championship.”

The team has large goals, but large expectations have already been placed on the Comets. On March 16th, Mason was ranked number one in the Southwest Ohio preseason coaches poll. Johnson said that he doesn’t give any attention to rankings, but that is where he expects his team to be.

“I don’t really pay attention to things like [the coaches poll],” Johnson said. “However that is the standard that this program has set over the last few seasons. Coach Bly has gotten us to be one of the best programs in the midwest and some years even the country.”

In order to reach these expectations and goals, Bly knows he will have to rely heavily on his seniors. Not only do they have the experience, but he believes their leadership will be key to bringing the most out of the underclassmen. 

“There is going to be a ton of responsibility on the shoulders of the older guys,” Bly said. “They know that. Younger players grow up under the leadership of their older teammates just as much, if not more, than their coaches. So we are going to rely on them to lead. At the same time though, we will need them to produce too.”

Cox also knows the importance of the seniors to his development along with the other first-time varsity players. As guys that Cox looks to for tips and mentoring, he said that leadership will play a huge role in the team’s success.

“All the younger guys look up to those seniors,” Cox said. “Personally I have been going to Max [Johnson] for a long time to improve my game, getting a lot of advice and tips. These guys have been in the program a long time, and they know how to win games.”

Photo by Abby Waechter