Like any newcomer stepping into the Sunburst Baseball League right out of midget baseball, there’s going to be an adjustment period.
Mason Love-Hollman is one of several new faces on the Red Deer Riggers this season and found that out early.
Riggers manager Jaret Chatwood inserted the 19-year-old in at the top of the batting order, which put even more pressure on him.
“It was kind of intimidating for sure,” said the native of Red Deer. “I told Chatty that I was more comfortable down in the order.”
Since moving down Mason is finding his stroke and showed he’s over the adjustment period with a pair of hits and a walk in the Riggers 4-2 win over St. Albert Tuesday in Sylvan Lake.
“Just more comfortable,” he said.
Love-Hollman came into the season after not playing for over a year because of the pandemic.
“Covid messed up last year for sure,” he said. “It was tough not playing and then getting back and facing a 90 mph fastball. It took a bit of getting used to again. It also took some time getting used to taking ground balls.”
Defensively he started at second base, but moved over to third and has fit in perfectly. He has as strong of an arm as any infielder.
“Growing up I was always a bit smaller so the last few years I worked extra hard on my arm,” he explained.
He also indicated it was nice to move back to the left side of the infield.
“I always played shortstop so I’m used to that side of the diamond. Playing second was an adjustment in terms of the throw being shorter and not letting it go and also turning the double play was different. But I wouldn’t be much of an infielder if I didn’t or couldn’t adjust. Still, I enjoy being at third.”
Mason grew up in an athletic family as his mother (Lisa) play softball in university and his father (Terry) is a highly ranked hockey referee.
“We don’t talk about that,” said Mason with a laugh when mentioning his dad.
As for his mother, she introduced him to baseball.
“She took me out when I was two to toss the ball around, got me into tee ball and it went from there.”
Mason was home-schooled until moving to high school in Penhold. He still played every sport he could “except soccer”.
“I just love all sports,” he said. “I played volleyball, track, basketball and badminton, which was probably my most favourite sport behind baseball.”
He played minor ball in the Central Alberta area, including one season with the East Central bantam AAA squad and a year with the Red Deer Braves. He also finished his midget AAA career off with the Red Deer Carstar Braves.
Over the years he played with the majority of the new players with this year’s edition of the Riggers.
“We grew up together, so it’s comfortable being here and knowing most of the guys … it’s nice to be back together.”
Mason had always hoped to play junior or senior baseball in Central Alberta, whether with the Innisfail Junior Merchants or the Riggers.
“I’m more of a stay-at-home guy and this is a real good league to play in … it’s an honor to be here.”
Love-Hollman will continue to be part of the Riggers’ rebuilding program.
One of the bright spots among the newcomers is on the mound with the likes of Rees DeRuyter, Kyle Baumgardt, Brett Porter and Wyle Cunningham.
“We have a lot of talented younger players, a lot of good arms and there’s more coming,” he said.
The Riggers were slated to host the nationals this season, but they were cancelled because of Covid. The Red Deer squad is now penciled in to host in 2023.
“This year would have been tough for us,” admitted Love-Hollman. “As for in two years we’re not looking that far, just concentrating on the playoffs and the provincials. As for 2023, I think everyone is excited as we all should be back and add a couple more guys.”
Mason is one of the few new faces with the Riggers who hasn’t accepted a scholarship this season.
“A lot of our guys are going to PBA (in Lethbridge),” he said. “I’ve talked with a couple of schools, but nothing confirmed. I’d like to stay close to home and I’ve talked with Jaret about it and we’ll see what happens … but I’d like something.”
One thing the six-foot-one, 165-pound Love-Hollman will be doing this winter is getting into the gym.
“I’d like to get a little bigger and stronger,” he said. “That was tough over the last year or so because the gyms being closed.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at email@example.com