I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
On the way back from Fort Myers this spring, sitting at the airport waiting for our flight, my buddy and I started chatting with the couple at the next table. The conversation turned to the unwillingness of some players to give autographs, and they were delighted to relate a story about a generous and polite player who stood signing patiently for everyone who asked. And I knew from the instant they started the story that it was about Justin Masterson.
Masterson doesn’t blend into a crowd; standing 6’6″, shaved bald as a cue ball and sporting flashy high socks, he’s hard to miss. But more than that, he carries himself as a man with a much bigger responsibility than his employment in baseball. In an age when many ballplayers indulge themselves in the trappings of fame and fortune, when others search out drugs and doctors to keep them ahead of the game, Masterson’s devotion is clearly to God, before baseball, before any earthly pursuit. And that devotion in turn clearly guides his actions here, from his work to improve himself and his game to his influence on his teammates. Even as a fan, it’s hard to miss the joy and good will that radiate from him–even if he didn’t appear to be Mr. Clean incarnate, clean-scrubbed glowing aura and all.
Masterson’s pitching style–his heavy sinker, slider and changeup–has earned him comparisons to Derek Lowe, at least on the mound. Masterson was drafted by the Red Sox in 2006, pitching the rest of that summer in Lowell. He started 2007 in the winds of Lancaster but earned his promotion to Portland. It certainly seemed possible that Justin would start 2008 in Pawtucket, but for the moment he’s landed back atop Portland’s rotation. In any case, I’m sure it won’t be long before he finds himself on the mound at McCoy–and I hope it’s in the cards for him to pitch at Fenway sooner rather than later!
I managed a photo or two of Justin pitching at Futures at Fenway in 2006
but only caught him in the lineup in 2007.
In January 2008, Justin was part of the New Stars for Young Stars Jimmy Fund benefit.
He started the game in Fort Myers against Northeastern on February 28.
(I think Jed Lowrie is warning him that he could hurt his hamstrings dashing off the mound!)
Guess that one didn’t go where it was supposed to!
I’m thinking neither Justin nor Michael Bowden agrees with the call here…
On the railing with Craig Hansen.
With Coco Crisp and Joe Thurston, smiles all around!
Justin also pitched on March 7… in the sunlight this time, thanks!
By my last day in Florida, Justin had returned to the minor league camp, where I did get one last glimpse of him…
It’s a privilege to be able to root for a player who’s not only a talented pitcher but also a young man of great character. Any article on Justin I’ve read, any interview I’ve heard, any time I’ve seen him play or even just be around his teammates, I’ve been struck by his smile and by the way goodness and honor surround him. During the January events, Justin signed a few photos for me, always citing Philippians 4:13. But one can look a few verses earlier for a message equally appropriate:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever
things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be
any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and
heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.