Mason Fessler thinks more about hitting a baseball than any other high school ballplayer you will meet.
The intricacy at which he studies the skill shows when he is at the plate.
The Blanchet Catholic School senior had his hitting streak end at 40 games last week, but he hit safely the next two games and is working on a new streak.
Fessler, a thirdbaseman by nature and utility infielder and pitcher by necessity, is one of the best high school hitters you will find with a career average of .437 entering this season.
The 6-foot, 210 pound Fessler spends a lot of time during, before and after the season studying and practicing the subject.
“Where I think it’s going to separate good and great players is the mental part, and that’s where I feel like a lot of kids don’t put the time in,” said Fessler, who has committed to play in college at Willamette.
“Hey, I can be successful here, but do I just want to be successful on a small level. I’m always looking big picture and trying to better myself any way I can.”
Fessler carries a 3.97 GPA – more than twice his 1.91 ERA – so he spends time in other subjects, but hitting is his best subject.
If he calls a teammate after a game, the chances are good he wants to talk about hitting.
“Homework a little bit, but we talk about baseball most all the time,” said senior teammate Bryce Santibanez. “It’s mostly always hitting.”
Fessler’s hitting streak dates back to April 24, 2012 when he went 0 for 3 against Pleasant Hill that ended a 21-game hitting streak dating back to his freshman year.
He had a hit in all 26 games of his junior season – in which he was a first-team all-state infielder – and hit safely in Blanchet’s first three games of this season.
It’s amazing to consider that in the past three seasons there have been two games in which he hasn’t had a hit.
“The other thing is he’s very, very good at taking the ball to where the ball is thrown,” Blanchet coach David Shultz said. “If it’s thrown outside, he’s going to hit it to opposite field. If it’s thrown inside, he’s going to turn and pull it.
“And he doesn’t try to overpower the ball. He’s worked a little bit this year with his private coach on trying to get a little more power into his swing. Basically he hits a lot of singles, some doubles occasionally, he got a triple the other day. He’s only had maybe four home runs in four years.”
Going 0 for 4 in last week’s 8-4 win against Dayton wasn’t a big deal for Fessler.
He didn’t go back for more instruction or try to reinvent his swing.
He doesn’t seem that upset about it, either.
“I want to hit the ball hard,” Fessler said. “My goal going into every game is I want to hit the ball hard twice. You can’t control what happens when it comes off the bat. I could line out to the center fielder, and that could be a good swing, and it’s an out. But then I could hit a small dribbler to the third baseman, way out in front, bad swing, but that’s a hit.
“Hits aren’t really a good indicator of how of a hitter you are, so I get to see am I hitting the ball well? Am I having good at bats? Am I working counts? That kind of stuff.”
Fessler has put in the physical work to get to the level at which he has arrived by playing baseball year round – fall ball turns into hitting instruction in the winter at Northwest Diamond Sports in Wilsonville then the high school season then the American Legion season in the summer.
With batting averages of .449, .591 and .450 the past three years, the amount of work shows through.
“I just love the game,” said Fessler, twice a first-team all-PacWest selection. “A lot of people think it’s boring but for me it’s just the little intricate details. You’ve always got to be thinking, and that’s where a lot of people get lost in the game.
“For me, I like that, I like the constant thinking, the chess match between pitcher and hitter, and I thrive off that stuff. You always want to get the best of them. I think that’s what drives me. You don’t want to fail, and it’s inevitable.”
Since his sophomore year, Fessler has been Blanchet’s No. 1 pitcher, even though he considers himself more of a third baseman.
He was 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA as a sophomore, 9-3 with a 2.13 ERA as a junior and is 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA this season.
And he’s getting those numbers against Blanchet’s best opponents.
“He’s definitely the ace of our staff,” said sophomore catcher Nate Cantonwine. “He doesn’t really think of himself as a pitcher, but … he really does a great job for us against teams like Pleasant Hill, Santiam Christian, the better teams we play.
“It’s huge to have someone who can go up and really throw the ball and throw it by people, and has good off-speed stuff to get by them.”
Last summer Fessler was the starting third baseman for the Canyon Crushers’ American Legion state championship team.
Despite being one of the younger players on the team, he was still a big bat and played up to the higher level of competition.
“It was just a really good season,” Fessler said. “To have the success – winning league, winning state and going to regionals – that was really exciting. Here at Blanchet, we make the playoffs, we made the state playoffs the last six years, but we’d usually been one and done. Last year we won our first state playoff game in I think three or four years when we went to Burns.
“I had a little success in the state tournament, but just to win a state championship, that’s something you dream of. You want to be a championship team, and doing it with those guys and dogpiling on Medford’s field, that was pretty exciting.”
People can say whatever they want about how Fessler’s stats are skewed because of the level at which he plays.
But the contributions he made to the Crushers can’t be debated.
“You go from 3A baseball, people may not think much of it, but then when you go to Legion ball and you do almost the same exact thing, it just definitely proves that he’s an outstanding player,” Santibanez said.
bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6701 or follow at twitter.com/bpoehler