At the start of the 2019 Cape League season, Falmouth had three Holy Cross Crusaders on their roster. Chris Rinaldi, Alex Volpi and Austin Masel all signed temporary contracts with the Commodores.
For temporary players it is difficult to stay on a CCBL team and with limited spots available for the ‘Dores, only one Crusader was able to remain on the roster: Austin Masel.
“It was weird,” Masel said about Rinaldi and Volpi leaving. “I played 53 games with them this season. They come down here to play summer ball and after a few games, they’re just gone. But I mean it’s what happens.”
The Cape can be an unforgiving place for a temporary player. Just ask Austin Masel. The six-foot-one 175-pound outfielder was a Falmouth Commodore in 2018. He was cut after seven games due to his .143 batting average.
“Last year, I was a little nervous,” Masel said. “I was playing with some big dogs. A lot of kids don’t get this opportunity, especially from a small school in the Northeast. It was a little nerve-racking.”
The Stoneham, Massachusetts native never faced competition for a starting spot. Despite injuries in high school, he still received playing time at Belmont Hill School and has been an everyday starter since joining the Crusaders.
“I had the chance to come right in and play a big role when I first started,” Masel said.
And Masel has been a driving force at Holy Cross. He appeared in all 53 games his freshman season with the Crusaders featuring a .290 batting average and 27 RBIs. In his sophomore year, Masel was named to the All-Patriot League first team while starting forty games in the outfield for Holy Cross. As a junior, the birch-swinging, lanky outfielder tallied 64 hits, leading the team in that category.
But his head coach at Holy Cross knows Falmouth’s system. For three seasons, Greg DiCenzo was a coach with the Falmouth Commodores. Manager Jeff Trundy is a “second father” to DiCenzo.
“He probably wished that he had more consistent at-bats,” Holy Cross head coach Greg DiCenzo said. “But, he knows coming from Holy Cross, a mid-major program at the Division One level, that those ABs are going to be gobbled up by guys from high profile organizations. He just had to buy his time whenever he was called.”
Every at-bat early on had meaning to Masel. Every hit led to the potential of staying on the team.
“I told him that he would probably not be staying again to be quite frank,” DiCenzo said. “The roster spots are very limited and coach Trundy has always been super honest. If there’s an opportunity for guys to play, they will earn it and it has nothing to do with my relationship with him.”
How was Masel able to stay with the Commodores?
Last summer, the then rising junior was fighting for a spot on the roster and lost sight of why he played the game.
This summer his approach was different.
“I’m having fun,” Masel said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself last year and this year, I’m playing for fun. The more fun I’ve had, the more times we’ve won. It makes me feel better at the plate and more relaxed playing the game.”
Manager Jeff Trundy sees Austin Masel’s approach working. Having fun is something Trundy always preaches to every player who comes to Falmouth.
“He’s more relaxed,” Trundy said about Masel’s approach this season. “Last summer, I think he was really putting pressure on himself and he wanted to prove that he belonged. Now, he just wants to enjoy it and have fun. You can see he’s having fun.”
“He’s a gamer and a competitor,” DiCenzo said. “When the lights are on if you need somebody up there, I don’t think the moment is going to be too big for him. He relishes those opportunities to win games for his team.”
This idea of having fun stems back to the original reason why Austin Masel plays the game of baseball.
“I started to play because of the friendships,” Masel said. “All of my buddies played when I was younger. My dad kinda always had me play. I just always loved hitting. Just getting the pressure out of your system and hitting the ball and going out there and having fun.”
Masel is currently batting .406 in 14 games with the Commodores and it doesn’t seem like the fun is going to end any time soon.
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Maxwell Trink can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on twitter @MaxwellTrink.