With ball in her blood, Mason heads to tourney

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

NATCHEZ — You could say that 9-year-old Shelby Mason was raised to be on the diamond.

Her mother, Leigh Anne, and father, Matt, both were standout softball and baseball players at Adams County Christian School and went on to play collegiate ball at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Shelby’s older sister Ashton will be a junior for the Rebel softball team this fall.

Email newsletter signup

So naturally it did not take long for Shelby to take a liking to the game herself.

“From when I was born I would always watch my sister, my mom and my dad play,” Shelby said.

“She’s a ballpark baby, that’s what we call her,” Leigh Anne added. “It was natural, all she ever wanted to do was play ball.”

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Shelby Mason, 9, is leaving this week to play in the Road to Orlando World Series in Kissimmee, Fla. Mason, the daughter of Matt and Leigh Anne Mason, plays for the USSSA 10-and-under Louisiana Patriots traveling softball team.

Now, like so many great athletes before her, Shelby is going to Disney World. But, she is going to try to win a championship, not celebrate one.

Shelby is one of the youngest members of the USSSA 10-and-under Louisiana Patriots softball team. They will be traveling to Kissimmee, Fla., just outside of Orlando, to take part in the Road to Orlando World Series at ESPN’s Wild World of Sports Complex.

Shelby, who is the only girl on the team from Mississippi, said she is excited about going to the tournament and she is looking forward to hitting the ball hard when she gets there.

More than 40 teams from all over the country, and even a team from Puerto Rico, are competing in the week-long tournament.

Word got around in Natchez that Shelby was a good ball player, and that word made it down to Patriots’ coach Mike Page in Baton Rouge.

Shelby went down to Baton Rouge for a tryout and was asked to join the team, Page said.

“The reason I wanted her on the team is she really has a lot of potential and a good skill set for a fast-pitch softball player, and she’s an athlete,” Page said.

Shelby was hesitant to accept the invitation at first, because she did not know any of the girls on the team and was weary of the amount of travel, but she eventually decided to join the Patriots. She said now she has good friends on the team.

“They are really a close knit group of kids,” Leigh Anne said.

Once Shelby made the team and began practicing with the Patriots, Page found out that she was a joy to coach, he said.

“She’s a real coachable kid, if I ask her to change something about her swing or the way she’s fielding, throwing or running the bases, she’s very coachable and she will do (what I ask),” Page said.

Shelby’s primary role on the team is as a centerfielder and second place hitter. She also pitches and plays shortstop, she said.

“I like pitching, because I like to get to have the ball every time,” Shelby said.

Shelby said the world tournament has several draws other than playing top-notch softball competition.

Shelby is an avid softball fan and has been watching games on TV since she could remember, and she has also been to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Her fanaticism will be treated in Florida when she gets to watch the USSSA Pride, a team consisting of several star softball players including former Texas pitcher Cat Osterman, play an exhibition game against another star-studded team, the Chicago Bandits.

The players of the two teams will serve as honorary coaches for the younger teams, and Shelby hopes she will get to meet one of her favorites.

“I want to meet Jennie Finch, but I don’t think she is going to be there, so I hope Cat Osterman is,” Shelby said.

Shelby also said she is looking forward to going to Disney World.

The team is taking a charter bus down to Florida Saturday morning, and several members of Shelby’s family will be going along as well, Leigh Anne said.

Along with Shelby and her mom, Shelby’s great-grandmother Betty Boyd is coming, with Shelby’s cousin Landon Davis.

The Masons had to raise enough money to be able to pay for trip expenses such as equipment and hotel rooms. Leigh Anne said they received donations from family and friends in Natchez.

“The city has been really generous to us,” Leigh Anne said. “We had to raise money to get to go, and we didn’t pay anything out of pocket. We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from local people here.”

Leigh Anne said she hopes to get a 10-and-under team in Natchez soon.

Shelby also wanted to thank her family that will not be able to make the trip including, her great-grandfather Ray Boyd, great-grandmother Berkley Goodman, and her grandparents Judy and John Mason and Jackie and Martha Goodman, all from Natchez. Also, Shelby’s sister Ashton cannot make the trip because ACCS softball will start its season before the tournament is complete.