The world of sports often suffers from tired and overused synonyms and misplaced idioms, but when it comes to Grain Valley High School junior center fielder and sprinter Mason Rogers, few would argue with Eagles track coach Brian Winkler who simply says, “He’s one in a million.”
Rogers, whose baseball season came to a disappointing end earlier this week with a 4-2 Class Class 5 District 14 loss to Blue Springs South, will compete Saturday at the Class 4 sectional track meet at Odessa High School.
At last week’s Class 3 District 7 track and field meet, in just the fifth time he has ever competed in the open 100 meters, he broke the school record with a time of 10.72 seconds – which is No. 1 in the state in his class. He will also lead off the 400 (4x100) and 800 (4x200) relay teams, which rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the state, respectively.
“He really is one in a million – and he can get so much better because he’s just a junior,” Winkler said. “He is so explosive out of the blocks. I mean, it’s incredible for a kid who is so new to the sport.
“We’ve had fast kids – a lot of them – but never anyone who has come close to what Mason’s doing in such a short period of time.”
Eagles baseball coach Brian Driskell backs Winkler’s comments, and takes it a step further.
“Mason hasn’t even scratched the surface in either sport,” Driskell said. “The best is yet to come for him. I’ve never seen a faster kid, or a kid who has improved so much from one season to another. And we have him for another year.”
Although the Eagles baseball statistics are not totally up to date, Rogers was hitting .385 with a .495 on-base percentage. Driskell believes he has surpassed the 35 stolen base mark and has averaged more than a steal a game this season. He has also cut his strikeouts in half from his sophomore campaign.
“You see kids who are good when they are sophomores,” Driskell said, “and then they never improve. They stay right there their entire careers. Mason has made amazing strides, and he is such a hard worker and so coachable that he’s going to just keep getting better and better.”
Rogers became the subject of national attention last summer when he ran a 6.39-second 60-yard dash at a national Prep Baseball Report camp in Indiana. It was the second fastest time in the nation.
“I think the fastest time was 6.37 – and after that was posted, I started getting calls from coaches from every class, from Division III to small Division I schools,” Driskell said. “You can’t coach speed – and he has it.
“A lot of people want to compare him to Zach Ehlen (former Eagles baseball and track standout who is now playing baseball at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri), but Mason is faster. He’s just so explosive. You can see it every time he runs – on the base paths or at a track meet.”
While everyone throws accolades his way, Rogers simply takes it all in stride.
“I’ve played baseball since I was about 4, and ran track for a while in seventh grade,” Rogers said. “I love baseball – it’s my sport. But after I ran that 6.39, Coach Winkler asked me about track.
“I told him baseball was my sport, but we were able to work it out where I could work out with the track team when it didn’t interfere with baseball, and it’s been kind of crazy.”
When asked why he didn’t pursue track after the seventh grade, he grinned and said, “They wanted me to run distance, and I wasn’t a distance guy. But I do like the sprints.”
While the world of track is new and exciting, baseball is like your favorite glove – comfortable and reassuring.
“I never thought I would have the success I’ve had in track,” Rogers explained. “I do get out of the blocks fast – and I don’t even know how I do it. But I know what to do in baseball and I know I can be a big part of this team next season.
“We were all disappointed we lost to Blue Springs South, but that’s just going to make us work harder and want to do better next year because most of the guys are coming back next year.”
Driskell said that Rogers will be a big part of the 2020 Eagles, and joked, “He’s almost like those kids in little league who get on base and steal second and third on the first two pitches. He can do that – he’s that fast and that good.”
Now, with the baseball season over, Rogers is concentrating on more than a top four finish at sectionals, to punch his and his relay teammates ticket to state.
“The top four go to state,” he said, “but I’m going to sectionals to win. I know I’ve got a target on my back because of what I did at district, and I’m fine with that. I want everyone to give me and the guys on the relay teams their best shot. That’s what makes track so exciting.”