Baseball has been Mason Kojac’s main sport since he was barely more than a toddler, first picking up a ball and glove around three or four. It wasn’t until a little later, however, that he realized baseball could be more than just a fun time for him.
“When I first started playing it, I played it because my friends were playing it and I could hang out with them,” he says. “But I think maybe around 10 or 11 is when I really started getting into it.”
That was when Mason began to take stock of himself and realized he didn’t just like baseball, he had a real knack for the sport that was worth investing in.
“I realized I was actually good enough to play on a high-level team,” he says. “At 10, I was playing up with 12-year-olds.”
His natural strengths were speed, an overall athleticism and a good eye at the plate.
“I wasn’t necessarily a power hit, hitting was just easier for me,” he says. “I made contact more, hit more balls.”
But by the time Mason hit high school — he is currently a Junior at Governor Thomas Johnson High School, in Frederick and plays outfield — taking stock meant reflecting on the things he needed to improve upon to keep growing as well.
“Mostly my strength, and being able to hit the ball far,” he says. “I’ve always been undersized most of my life.”
So with a goal of building power and putting on some lean muscle in mind, Mason followed the referral of a teammate and checked out Players Fitness and Performance, in Frederick. He immediately recognized it as a place he wanted to be.
“I was impressed. Every exercise focused on one of my weaknesses, or an area I could get stronger in, and it was all very specific to baseball,” he says. “Everybody was nice and welcoming and stuff. They made you feel like you belong there right from the start.”
Mason’s mother, Rochelle, felt the same way.
“It was like they had known you your whole life,” she says.
The coaches at PFP were themselves impressed with Mason.
“I call him a silent workout assassin,” says PFP Coach Travis Bewley. “He was one of those kids who was deceivingly athletic, just because he was so soft spoken, humble.”
“Mason did the work”, Bewley said, “sticking even the little sometimes boring details, and just three months in, it was clear he was getting the rewards of that investment when he tested his athletic benchmarks.”
“He shattered all of his records. To the point that at the time it caught us off guard with how big of a jump he had in such a short period of time,” Bewley says, “including literal jumping records” “He had big improvements in his broad jump and his vertical jump. It seemed like every time I looked around he was jumping somewhere, hitting the rim, jumping over things.”
PFP also helped Mason come back from a rotator cuff injury that was hampering his throwing.
“They tailored everything to getting those areas as strong as possible, so the injury would go away and not come back,” Mason says. “So far, it hasn’t come back. I haven’t had any pain since last year.”
“They actually partnered with the physical therapy group and talked with them back and forth to make sure what they were doing would help him,” Rochelle added. “They just really care.”
It’s now two years after starting PFP, and Mason is seeing big improvements in his power on the field, and his ability to leap and field balls driven hard into the outfield. His arm is stronger and more resilient, he isn’t having any trouble getting those balls back to the infield either.
“What I really love doing, if maybe I get a long ball hit to me with a runner on third, is just gunning them out from the outfield all the way to home plate,” he says. “That’s really satisfying.”
And it wasn’t just due to lifting weights. Mason says that before PFP, his conception of good nutrition was “pretty terrible,” with a diet rich in fast food and soda.
“Now, I’ve pretty much cut fast food out, cut soda out. I am more aware of what I’m eating,” he says. “Overall, I just seem to have more energy. Not only in sports or in the gym, but in school.”
That commitment to improvements, large, small and in detail, has led to Mason being recognized at PFP as the January 2019 Athlete of the month. And Bewley says Mason still has a lot of room to grow.
“I think he’s going to surprise people with the jumps he’s going to have in these next two years because of how hard he is willing to work and focus on those little details that people neglect,” Bewley says. “He always catches us off guard with how strong he is and how explosive he is.”
As for the future, Mason hopes to attend college, perhaps University of Maryland, in service of the driving purpose behind all the work he is putting in now. He wants “to play baseball as long as I can in my life.”
“Playing baseball for a long time is definitely something that is available to him, because he’s kind of a coach’s dream,” Bewley says. “He’s willing to buy into doing all the little things that other people neglect.”
That’s Mason Kojac’s why. What’s your why?