Kelly Murray sat in the right field bleachers watching her 11-year-old son, Mason, pitch at Busch Stadium.
The next thing she knew, he was holding his trophy on the stadium JumboTron and beaming. Moments later, as she walked on to the concession stand, the moment simply became too much for her.
“Once we got settled after the competition, I went out to get a bite to eat and I just started crying,” Kelly said. “I was just so happy for him. You just feel so proud.”
Mason, along with his smile, found his way onto the big screen after he won Busch Stadium’s section of Major League Baseball’s Pitch, Hit and Run competition, an annual youth skills competition put on by Pepsi and Major League Baseball. Mason’s first-place performance at Busch Stadium earned him the chance to compete at the League’s All-Star Game in San Francisco as one of the top four competitors in his age group. Mason would also get to stand in the outfield with his fellow competitors during the Home Run Derby.
“It’s a dream come true to compete for the championship title and to shag balls in the Home Run Derby,” Mason said. “Maybe I’ll even get to meet Albert Pujols.”
Mason, an incoming sixth-grader in the Columbia Catholic Schools, won the local level of the contest at Oakland Park on May 12. Then, after duplicating his first-place finish in the sectional competition in Rolla, Mason was invited to compete with other sectional winners at Busch Stadium on June 10.
Each Major League team hosts an event for the top sectional competitors, and the top four scorers of the entire competition earn the chance to compete at the All-Star Game in San Francisco on July 10. All this, and he isn’t even fully convinced baseball is his favorite sport.
“I really got into basketball this year, and I just started playing football,” he said. “I really only play baseball during the summer. My favorite sport is usually just whatever I’m playing that season.”
Mason remains humble, despite the recent accolades and his selection by peers and coaches to join a local All-Star team that hopes to make it to the Little League World Series. He restrained his pride and excitement, allowing only the crack of a smile as he talked about playing at Busch Stadium, the same field where the Cardinals, his favorite team, play.
This was the second consecutive year Mason advanced to the Busch Stadium portion of the competition — he finished second last year — but he said it didn’t make the experience any less memorable.
“It was a sensational experience,” he said. “It was awesome getting another chance to go to Busch Stadium and compete in the Pitch, Hit and Run. Not all kids get this opportunity even once, and I can’t believe I got a second chance.”
And Mason made the most of it. The three-part competition began with six attempts to pitch strikes from 45 feet away. Next, in the hitting competition, the players hit a ball as far and as straight as they could from a tee. The batting event was followed by a timed run from second base to home. Mason’s performance at Busch Stadium was his best to date in the competition.
“I felt that my performance was great,” Mason said. “I felt like it was the best I could do. I hit the target all six times, I hit the ball 190 feet, and I ran as fast as I could run.”
Mike, Mason’s father, shared his pride in the performance.
“Last year at the stadium, Mason had a lot of nerves,” his father said. “Usually, when he talks about being nervous, we always try to tell him to look on the positive side and turn that nervous energy into excitement so he doesn’t get really distracted or unfocused from what he’s doing. And this year, he was just unbelievable. He performed very well.”
This performance earned Mason first place for his age group at Busch Stadium, but the next step in the competition involved patience. Mason and his family had to wait a full two weeks for the phone call to find out whether Mason’s score earned him a trip to San Francisco to compete in the All-Star Game festivities.
On Monday afternoon, the Murrays received that phone call and found out Mason’s first trip to California will be paid for.
Mason was away at basketball camp when his mom received the good news. When she got to the gym to pick him up for the day, he looked at her as they got in the car and smiled.
“I got it, didn’t I?” Mason said.
“You did. How did you know?” his mom said.
“I just knew,” Mason said.