The emergence of a new Jedi.
From the small stage in Indiana, to the spotlight in Boston, Justin Masterson proves the force is strong within him.
Justin Masterson is a "righty killer" from the island of Jamaica. Growing up a devout Christan and the son of a youth minister, Masterson developed in to one of the best young arms in America.
He is a big 6'6", 250-pound pitcher with a three-fifths arm slot and slinging delivery. His weaponry includes a slider and changeup but the sinker Masterson throws—it's deadly. His teammates call him, "Jedi."
Masterson is quietly becoming a favorite of Red Sox fans. His unorthodox delivery and immediate success both contributed to his rising star at Fenway. Red Sox fans love a winner, and the fact that Masterson is home-grown helps breed a sense of pride for Sox fans.
There is something special about a player being "one of your own." Masterson has turned himself in to a coveted prospect since joining the Red Sox organization as a second-round draft pick in 2006. This past summer he was rumored to be the centerpiece of trade talks with the Texas Rangers for one of their catching prospects.
He is in demand now, but six years ago, Masterson couldn't get a second look from a Division-I baseball school.
In 2003, Notre Dame showed interest in the big right-hander, but Masterson ended up getting sick the day he was supposed to meet the Fighting Irish recruiter. Notre Dame never re-scheduled, and Masterson found his way to little Bethel College in Indiana.
Masterson spent two years at Bethel College and racked up 20 wins and 185 strikeouts in 185 innings. After his sophomore year, he knew he needed more tutelage to become a major leaguer. Masterson enjoyed Bethel College, as it was closely tied to his father's missionary church, but it lacked some of the basics of baseball, like a pitching coach.
"We didn’t really have a pitching coach at Bethel my sophomore year—we had a guy who tried hard and put his heart into it, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for. I had thought of transferring somewhere, though I had never voiced it, and I was looking for an opportunity," Masterson said in an interview with SOX1FAN.
A friend Masterson met while pitching in the Cape Cod Baseball League encouraged him to go West and join the San Diego State Aztec baseball team coached by Major League Baseball Hall of Famer, Tony Gwynn.
Under Gwynn, he learned how to think like a hitter and used it to refine his approach on the mound. In 2006, Justin Masterson was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the second round (71st overall) of the amateur draft. He was referred to by a few sources as the "most overrated player taken in Round Two."
Currently, 58 of the 70 picks drafted before Masterson have yet to make the Majors.
As an integral part of the 2009 Boston Red Sox, Masterson has close ties and affection for Massachusetts. But his connection to New England started well before he ever donned a Red Sox uniform.
In the summer of 2005, Masterson spent his summer on the coast of Massachusetts soaking in the warm sun of Cape Cod. Many people travel to Cape Cod every summer for a relaxing vacation. Masterson came for baseball.
The Cape Cod Baseball League is the most prestigious summer league in the United States. It rosters some of the best collegiate players in the country and boasts big-named MLB players such as Craig Biggio, Todd Helton, Jason Varitek, Nomar Garciaparra, Barry Zito, and Mark Teixiera.
Masterson had his way with the Cape Cod Baseball League, serving as the closer for the Wareham Gatemen. He posted 10 saves with an ERA just a shade over 1.00 that summer. This performance raised his stock into the second round of the MLB draft.
The Cape Cod Baseball League is highly regarded, as collegiate players are required to use wooden bats as opposed to the aluminum in college games. The Red Sox later said they felt lucky that Masterson was still at the board at No. 71.
Today, Masterson is often compared to a young Derek Lowe for his propensity to induce ground balls. He is a sinker/slider right-handed pitcher who can pull the string on his sinker, eliciting baffling swings from opposing hitters.
He possesses an ideal pitcher's frame and looks the part of a dominant right-handed Major League pitcher. He exudes confidence and size. An intimidating demeanor coupled with an intensity and a devastating sinker that will punish an opposing team at any part of a game.
The Red Sox have said repeatedly in the past that they preferred to stock their minor league system with young pitching. This has manifested itself at the Major League-level through the likes of Jonathan Papelbon, Clay Buchholz, Manny Delcarmen, and Jon Lester.
Now, it's Justin Masterson's turn as he looks to take his sinker to new heights.
Red Sox (12-6)
Darryl Johnston is the Red Sox correspondent for Fanball.com. He has many years of sports writing under his championship belts. Email him - firstname.lastname@example.org