In his three seasons at Texas Tech, right-handed pitcher Trey Masek has come a long way.
Performing well but admittedly not nearly up to his potential as a freshman, walking (29) nearly as many as he did strike out (33), the Giddings, Texas native made his way to the Cape Cod League the following two summers, where he learned to hone his offerings, finish off hitters and, above all else, trust his stuff on the mound.
The end result transformed into a season that won't soon be forgotten.
As a junior, Masek posted a 1.82 ERA and 0.99 WHIP while striking out nearly a batter per inning over 11 starts for the 2013 version of the Red Raiders. Among other notable awards, Masek was named to USA Baseball's 60-man Golden Spikes Award Watch List, an award given annually to the top amateur baseball player in the country.
That national recognition, coupled with his laundry list of offerings and hard-working demeanor both on and off the field, have made Masek one of the can't-miss college arms featured in Major League Baseball's 2013 first-year player draft.
I had the chance to chat with the Red Raiders ace as he patiently awaits next week's draft. The following transcript entails our entire conversation.
First off, I'd like to start with one of your tweets from the other day. It had something to do with 'gas station corn dogs.' Would you mind explaining that tweet?
If you can sincerely look me in the eyes and tell me you DONT like gas station corn dogs, then I can safely assume that you hate America.
If you can sincerely look me in the eyes and tell me you DONT like gas station corn dogs, then I can safely assume that you hate America.— Trey Masek (@treymasek) May 26, 2013
I was driving home from school, and I was hungry so I picked some up, and they were tasty. I usually tweet whatever I think. I'm not that filtered when it comes to that kind of stuff I guess.
Nice. On a more serious note, though, could you talk a little bit about your background as a baseball player, particularly where you grew up?
I grew up in Giddings, Texas. It's a small town about 45 miles east of Austin, Texas. It's got about 4,500 people and a class 3-A high school, which in Texas is pretty small, and I only graduated with about 100 people. I started playing baseball at four when I got into tee-ball, and I didn't start pitching until I was about 12, so that's where the pitching started. But yeah, I've played baseball for a while and really started to get competitive in high school, and that's when I started to hit my stride. I committed to Texas Tech as a junior, and the rest is kind of history.
Growing up, what influenced you to play the game? Was it maybe a favorite player or even a family member?
Not any in particular, really. I just kind of gravitated toward baseball when I was about 3 or 4 years old, and I just went from there. As I grew up, my grandpa, he would always send me baseball cards in the mail and that kind of got me going. Once I started pitching, probably my biggest influence was Roy Oswalt, because I was a little guy and I've never been the biggest pitcher out there, so I've always looked up to him and other guys like Tim Lincecum and even Jake Peavy, because of the way they attack hitters on the mound. I've always gravitated to watch those kinds of pitchers.
So was your favorite team the Astros, then?
Growing up, I obviously like the Rangers and the Astros simply from being a Texas guy. But I'll watch all kinds of baseball. I'm not a huge fan of any team, parse, I'm just a huge fan of the game.
Were you just a pitcher in high school, or were you a two-way player?
I was a two-way player, and I actually wasn't that bad. You can talk to some of my teammates who are now in college and they'll tell you that. But yeah, I wasn't bad. I batted around .450 in high school and I got (named to) All-State as a designated hitter my junior year. I hit a little bit and played outfield, and my two positions were center fielder and pitcher.
So it's safe to say you picked pitcher as your favorite position, then, correct?
Yeah. But I wouldn't say I picked it, I'd say baseball picked it for me, or at least that's what I tell people. I went to Texas Tech as a two-way guy. I started in the fall playing right field and pitching, and then when you go 2-for-45 in the fall, they don't let you hit too long. They told me real quick that I was just going to pitch from then on.
Did you play at any of the Perfect Game events or any showcases in high school?
Yeah, I went to two Perfect Game events, one going into my sophomore year and another one going into my junior year. I did go to the World Wood Bat tournament in Jupiter (Fla.) the fall of my senior year. Those are the three big ones that I went to.
Why is it that you signed with Texas Tech?
That's what everyone asks me, but it's kind of a thing where at the time, coach (Dan) Spencer really liked me and he told me that he thought I was a really good pitcher. I really didn't receive too much other interest from other schools in the area at the time. When I went on my visit with Texas Tech I just fell in love with the school and the campus and the coaches. I just felt like it was the right place for me to be.
What were some of your initial impressions of the program when you first arrived?
We had a ton of talent. I really felt we'd be able to make a run, and I thought, as far as the program goes, that we were a 'sleeping giant.' We had a lot of talent those first two years and I thought we definitely underachieved. This past year, we got the new coaching staff, so we've got the right pieces in place and a lot of good recruits coming in. So I think that program is about to turn around really fast.
What are some of the personal differences you noticed from high school to college ball?
Well, I mean there's a lot of differences. I think of the physicality of it. When I graduated from high school, I was about 5-foot-11, maybe 170 (pounds), 172 on a good day after a shower dripping wet. Now, I'm standing about 6-foot-1, about 190 pounds. Obviously, putting that kind of size on is going to help me. But then also just the maturity on the mound. When you're facing 3-A hitters in Texas, it's really easy to throw 90 MPH and just rear back and put that thing over the middle and blow it by them. Once you start facing hitters in the Big 12 and some of the best hitters in college baseball, you can't throw 90 MPH right down the middle -- you're going to get hit. So I really had to develop my secondary stuff and how to locate, throw downhill and just become more of a pitcher.
Any tough hitters in particular that you faced in your college career?
That's a tough one. I'd have to go with (Indians prospect) Tyler Naquin at (Texas) A&M comes to mind, just as far as pure hand-eye coordination goes. It's going to be really hard to get a ball by him. We had some tough battles over the years. Jared King out of Kansas State is a very tough out, too.
You were in the Cape Cod League for two summers during your college career. What were some of the things coaches stressed to you there?
They really wanted me to go in and work on my fastball command and work on finishing hitters, because that's the problem I had my freshman year. I would get ahead of hitters quick and then all of a sudden I'd double-up a breaking ball or leave a fastball over the heart of the plate, and next thing you know there's runners on second and third with nobody out. So they really wanted me to work on finishing hitters and not give up free passes, and I felt like I did a good job of that my freshman year.
It was more of the same my second time around. Once again, just not walking people, going after guys and trusting your stuff. That's one of the biggest things a pitcher can do; trust that you know that if you throw your pitch where you want to then the guy is not going to do much with it. I think that really helped me in the Cape League and I was able to carry that into this season.
Speaking of your stuff, can you give us a breakdown of the pitches you throw?
I throw a four-seam fastball that on a good day will sit anywhere between 91-94 MPH, and if I'm feeling really good I can reach back and get it into the 95-96 MPH range, and I also throw a two-seam fastball that'll come in between 90-93 MPH. From there, I go to a circle-changeup; it'll fade arm-side with a little sink and I'll throw that between 82-83 MPH. After that, I'll go with an overhand curveball that will sit anywhere from 76-78 MPH. From there, I'll go with my slider which, when I'm throwing it right, will go anywhere from 80-84 MPH.
It sounds like you have a good feel for your stuff, and you have a lot more pitches than I was aware of looking at the scouting reports. Could you talk about your strengths a little bit?
I my mind, being able to attack hitters with any pitch and in any count. I really feel comfortable with my arsenal. I really feel like I'm a strong-minded pitcher. I'm know going to back down from any hitter or any situation. I don't pitch around too many guys; I like to attack hitters.
On the flip-side, what are some of the things you might need to work on?
Obviously I'm not the biggest right-hander in the world who's going to crank it into triple-digits, so I have to be able to locate my fastball well. I have a good fastball, but it's not going to blow big-league hitters away so I need to work on locating that and get good downhill plane on it, which I did pretty well this year, but there's always room for improvement. You can always get better.
A lot of scouting reports give you high marks for your aggressiveness and poise on the mound. But do you have any specific plan-of-attack against righties or lefties?
Not in particular. I mean, granted, if there's runners on second and third and less than two outs and they're trying to put a ground-ball to the right side, then I'm obviously going to ride a two-seamer in on their hands to try to blow them up, but it's what the game dictates, really. There's no cookie-cutter mold for any hitter. Whatever the situation says to do, then that's what I'm going to do.
Any one word to describe your mentality on the mound?
I'd probably just say 'aggressive.' You know, I'm not going to dilly-dally around. Yeah, I'll try to hit my spots but I try to attack hitters and like I told you earlier, I'm not going to back down from anybody.
I read that you had some arm soreness late last March. Is that a concern for you moving forward?
No, I'm definitely past that. Anyone can go watch game film from my past three starts. I went threw like 122 pitches against Kansas State and was still throwing 91-94 MPH in the eighth inning. Two starts before that, I threw 130 pitches in a complete game against Oklahoma State and the last pitch of the game was 93 MPH. So there's been no soreness since I got over that so if any team has asked, I've been very open about it. I'm just looking forward to getting out and to showing that I'm healthy and ready to go.
Have you talked to any major league scouts yet?
Yeah, I've talked to quite a few.
Any in particular?
No, not really. Every team has pretty much called and checked up on me just to make sure I'm okay. Just you're run-of-the-mill questions. Nothing out of the ordinary.
Where are you expecting to go?
I haven't really thought about it. Whenever I get my call, I get my call.
So when you do get that call, what do you think you can offer to a major league team like the Brewers?
I'm a very hard worker. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm a very hard worker. Like I said earlier, I know I'm not the prototypical power-righty, I'm not 6-foot-6 and throw 100 MPH. What I don't have in those regards, I make up for in hard work and I'm going to be extremely determined to make it to the big leagues. I'll do whatever it takes within the legal bounds, obviously, to make it.
Just to finish up with a few side questions, what's your favorite baseball memory?
With my team, making it to the Big 12 tournament this year with such a young group. We had 25 newcomers this year and that was the most in the country. To be able to team up with some of the other upperclassmen and get those guys going, that was huge. On a personal note, probably pitching in the Cape League All-Star game this summer. That was an unbelievable experience that I'll never forget.
What do you do when you're not playing baseball?
I'm a very outdoors guy, so I'll go hunting and fishing and I also like playing golf. I don't get too crazy.
Thanks for your time, Trey. I really appreciate it. Best of luck with the draft.
No problem. Anytime.