Pinellas Park High School
In the spring of 2000 Nick Masset was a high school senior standing 6'-5" tall and possessing a mid 90's fastball.
In the spring of 2000 Nick Masset was a high school senior standing 6'-5" tall with a mid 90's fastball. He had signed a letter of intent with LSU and was ranked by Baseball America as the #11 high school prospect in the country. What happened next defined the "love of the game" for Nick.
The spring of 2000 was supposed to be the time for Nick Masset to enjoy the last half of his senior year of high school, to play a little baseball, and look forward to the June free agent professional baseball draft.
Masset had emerged as one of the top class of 2000 high school baseball pitching prospects. After strong showings at the East Coast Professional Baseball showcase and the winter Perfect Game showcase Nick was rated as the #11 high school prospect, by Baseball America magazine.
Masset had the stress and excitement of the recruiting trail behind him, having signed a letter of intent with Louisiana State University.
It seemed if all his boyhood dreams were coming true. Then fate stepped in and threw a wicked curve at Masset.
In Pinellas Park High School's second game of the year Nick was on the mound. In the stands were between 50 and 60 professional scouts. Not an unusual number to watch a potential first round draft pick.
24 pitches into the game Nick felt a stabbing pain in his elbow. "You know being on that mound, I was probably trying to overshowcase myself," Nick said. "But it was the weirdest thing because I tightened up real quick. It came out of nowhere. It was a shock after feeling so great. It was pretty devastating to walk off the mound and watch all those scouts go on their merry way home."
Scouts had been showing up regularly to watch the 6'-5" 185 lb. right handed pitcher who could reach the mid 90's with his fastball, using an effortless delivery. Scouts described Masset as the prototypical "projectable" high school player. Good height, the frame to carry more weight, a loose arm and good toughness on the mound. All things that seemed to point to a future major league baseball career.
The Masset family watched as all but the LSU scholarship disappeared.
"I was pretty shocked," said Nick. "I hadn't had any arm problems before and it came in my senior year."
The doctors suggested Tommy John surgery on Nick's damaged elbow. "When the doctors brought up Tommy John surgery I thought I was never going to throw again," Masset said. "I knew enough to think okay, Tommy John .... career done."
But the more the Masset's learned about the surgery the less dismal Nick's future became. The procedure has become routine enough for college and high school pitchers to still be considered high draft picks.
On March 24th Nick had the surgery. Tampa Bay Devil Rays team doctor Koco Eaton performed the complicated surgery to repair his right arm. Nick's medical information was also sent to Dr. James Andrews, (Birmingham, Alabama) one of the premier orthopedic surgeons in the country, for a second opinion. In Tommy John surgery either the medial or ulnar collateral ligaments in the elbow are replaced with a tendon from the wrist.
The rest of this article is based on a more personal perspective.
I received an email from a "mom" telling me that her son was being very heavily recruited and that folks were telling the family that he would be an early round draft pick, maybe even a first-rounder. She did not know how to go about finding out what to do.
After finding out more about her son I realized that the family might in fact be facing all that she was asking about.
I have learned that you never really know who might be on the other end of an email or message board post at High School Baseball Web.
I contacted two very great folks that "had been there - done that." Both of whom posted regularly on the message board, just to help other families. One whose son was a first round selection the other one's son a 4th round pick.
That was my first "meeting" with Lorrie Masset, Nick's mom. I learned of the signing with LSU, and was happy for the family. I read the Baseball America article that listed Nick as the #24 overall prospect (both high school and college players). It was fun! I wondered, to myself, if the High School Baseball Web "family" would have back to back years with a first round selection.
Lorrie thanked me for getting her in touch with the two "been there - done that" families, and let me know what a big help they had been.
Then in March my parents (who happen to live in the same county as the Masset's) sent me a newspaper article about Nick's injury and his surgery. They had no idea that I even knew who Nick Masset was. My mother just thought it was such a shame for a young man to be so close to his dream.
I stayed in touch with Lorrie, getting updates on Nick's progress. I talked to some self proclaimed draft experts, and asked about the possibility of Nick Masset being drafted in an early round. None, that I talked to, believed that it was very likely.
Nick's draft status "crashed and burned" with the injury and surgery in March. But as Masset's arm improved, so did his status.
On the first day of the draft I watched the proceedings of the draft (via internet) and let out a cheer that disrupted many of my fellow workers. Nick Masset had been drafted in the 8th round by the Texas Rangers, the 244th overall selection.. Am I a Rangers fan? No ... but I have become a huge Nick Masset fan, more correctly a Masset family fan.
I sent an email to Lorrie offering congratulations and expressing my pleasure that Nick had surprised the experts. I told her what an inspiration Nick was. Her response, "though he is my son, he has been an inspiration to us over the past couple of months with his determination to overcome this injury"
"This has been such an exciting week. I thought the draft would never get here and now that it has come and gone, I can hardly believe all that we have been through the last 10 months. What a RIDE! Poor Nick, had finals and rehab the day of the draft and just finished up school today."
Masset found out his draft status when he got home. "I walked in the door, and my parents said, "You're a Ranger!", he said. "I'm very proud," Nick said. "I'm pleased to be drafted. So much has happened with this being my senior year and having the injury to my arm. I'm just so glad a team had the faith in me to draft me. It's a great opportunity and makes me want to work hard."
Nick Masset's surgery was a success, he started throwing again in early July. Although he is only allowed to do so at about 50%, it is still a thrill. He is doing therapy with Larry Mayol at Star Care about 7 hours a week. The prognosis is for Nick to be throwing at 100% by spring.
Are you interested in the reaction from the LSU coaches throughout all of this?
I know that I was, so I asked Lorrie Masset.
Lorrie said, "As far as LSU, we pretty much talked with Turtle (Thomas), but we got a call
from both Skip and Turtle to see how the surgery went. They continued to talk to us right up until the draft, saying they hoped Nick would still take their scholarship offer, as they felt their people could help in the rehab and have him pitching for LSU in 2001. Turtle even called after the draft to congratulate Nick and once again asked if there was any chance that Nick
could still decide to come to LSU. We really felt we wanted to keep Nick closer to home and working with Larry if he did not sign right away with TX.
Nick really wants to start his professional career now, not in three years. But we were thankful to get their offer and had nothing but wonderful experiences with all of their staff and could not have been happier to see them win the College World Series."
Lorrie also says that, "At the end of last week Nick started pitching for accuracy and did well for his first time out. Larry is projecting that Nick will begin pitch this fall. We think it is a good idea to just take it one week at a time. No one wants to rush his rehabilitation."
I'm betting on Nick Masset to make it to the "bigs." Who knows maybe the Massets will send me a ticket to the second game Nick pitches in the Major Leagues. I'm sure there will be too many family, friends, ex-coaches, former teammates, doctors and physical therapist's at the first one for me to get a ticket.