Like any newcomer entering the Sunburst Baseball League right out of midget baseball, there is going to be a period of adjustment.
Mason Love-Hollman is one of the many new faces for the Red Deer Riggers this season and discovered him early on.
Riggers manager Jaret Chatwood put the 19-year-old at the top of the batting order, putting even more pressure on him.
“It was a little intimidating for sure,” said the Red Deer native. “I told Chatty that I was more comfortable in the order.”
Since moving, Mason has found his shot and showed he was past the adjustment period with a pair of hits and a walk in the Riggers’ 4-2 win over St. Albert on Tuesday at Sylvan Lake.
“Just more comfortable,” he said.
Love-Hollman entered the season after not playing for over a year due to the pandemic.
“Covid was wrong last year for sure,” he said. “It was hard not to play and then come back and deal with a fastball at 90 mph. It took a little getting used to. It also took some getting used to picking up balls on the ground.
Defensively, he started at second base, but moved on to third and integrated perfectly. He has an arm as strong as any infielder.
“Growing up I was always a little smaller, so the last few years I’ve been working really hard on my arm,” he explained.
He also said it was nice to come back to the left side of the infield.
“I’ve always played shortstop so I’m used to that side of the diamond. Playing second was an adjustment in terms of a shorter throw and not letting go and also turning the double play was different. But I wouldn’t really be an infielder if I didn’t or couldn’t adapt. Still, I like being third.
Mason grew up in a sports family as his mother (Lisa) plays softball in college and his father (Terry) is a top hockey umpire.
“We’re not talking about that,” Mason said with a laugh, mentioning his father.
As for his mother, she introduced him to baseball.
“She took me out when I was two to throw the ball, put me in the tee ball and it went from there.”
Mason was homeschooled until he moved to Penhold High School. He still played all the sports he could “except football”.
“I love all sports,” he said. “I played volleyball, track and field, basketball and badminton which was probably my favorite sport after baseball.”
He played minor ball in the central Alberta region, including a season with the Bantam AAA Central East team and a year with the Red Deer Braves. He also ended his midget AAA career with the Red Deer Carstar Braves.
Over the years he has played with the majority of new players with this year’s edition of the Riggers.
“We grew up together so it’s comfortable being here and knowing most of the guys… it’s nice to be together again.”
Mason had always hoped to play junior or senior baseball in central Alberta, whether with the Innisfail Junior Merchants or the Riggers.
“I’m more of a stay-at-home guy and it’s a really good league to play in… it’s an honor to be here.
Love-Hollman will continue to be part of the Riggers’ rebuilding program.
One of the highlights among the newcomers is on the mound with Rees DeRuyter, Kyle Baumgardt, Brett Porter and Wyle Cunningham.
“We have a lot of talented young players, a lot of good hands and there is more to come,” he said.
The Riggers were scheduled to host the national championships this season, but they were called off due to Covid. The Red Deer team is now scheduled to host in 2023.
“This year would have been difficult for us,” admitted Love-Hollman. “As for two years, we’re not looking that far, we’re just focusing on the playoffs and the provincials. As for 2023, I think everyone is excited because we should all be back and adding a few more guys. “
Mason is one of the few new faces of the Riggers who haven’t accepted a scholarship this season.
“A lot of our guys go to the PBA (in Lethbridge),” he said. “I have spoken with a few schools, but nothing has confirmed. I would love to stay close to home and I talked to Jaret about it and we’ll see what happens… but I would like something.
One thing the six-foot-one, 165-pound Love-Hollman will do this winter is get into the gym.
“I would like to get a little bigger and stronger,” he said. “It was tough over the past year or so because the gyms were closed.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and a member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org