The San Francisco Giants selected right-handed pitcher Mason Black with the 85th pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, making him the second-highest player drafted in program history and the highest pitcher drafted in program history.
Black had a historic junior season for Lehigh, setting the program records for strikeouts in a season with 95 and earning Patriot League Pitcher of the Year.
Black’s career started at Valley View High School, where he played catcher until his junior year.
“I finally made the flip to pitching because I just couldn’t hit,” Black said.
After switching to pitching, Black posted a career 1.19 ERA with 123 strikeouts in 94.1 innings of work for Valley View.
In his senior season of high school, Black earned the 2018 Lackawanna League Player of the Year and the 2018 Times-Tribune Player of the Year as he led Valley View to their fourth straight league title.
“He guided us all the way to the state championship game at Penn State said Valley View head coach Jason Munley. “He was the horse we rode the whole time.”
Not only did Black excel in baseball, but he also excelled in his academics. He was the 2018 Valley View class salutatorian, the 2018 Times-Tribune Scholastic Superstar and a three-year member and president of the National Honor Society. He was also a member of the Math Honor Society and president of the student council.
Lehigh baseball head coach Sean Leary said as Black was finishing high school he was projected as someone who was going to be in the front line rotation for the Mountain Hawks.
Lehigh baseball head coach Sean Leary said as Black was finishing high school, he was projected as someone who was going to be in the front line rotation for the Mountain Hawks.
Black earned a temporary contract at the prestigious Cape Cod League that summer, which was only supposed to last the first 10 days of the season.
One in every six Major League Baseball players has played in the Cape Cod Baseball League. There are annually 300 active Cape Cod Baseball League Alumni playing in the major leagues and more than 1,250 all-time, according to Cape Cod Baseball’s website.
Leary said he was confident in Black and knew he was ready to be exposed to the best competition in the country despite his lack of experience.
Although Black was on a 10-day contract, he didn’t look at the Cape Cod League as a temporary experience. He knew that all he had to do was pitch well, and he would remain on the team, Leary said.
“The morning of the All-Star selection, I was talking to Mason (Black) about whether or not they would keep him up thereafter. He just had a great start,” Leary said. “I made a joke to him that if they pick him for the All-Star game, they would have to pick up his contract for the rest of the summer. Later that day, he was named the starting pitcher for the All-Star Game and his contract was extended.”
Black flourished throughout the entire summer, going 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA, striking out 39 batters in 36.2 innings of work with only 12 walks. Black’s original temporary status was removed when he was named the All-Star Game starter and his team’s MVP at the end of the season.
“The first summer on Cape Cod is when I realized this could be a potential career path,” Black said. “Until that point, you don’t see yourself stack up against the elite of the country because we don’t play an SEC or ACC Schedule. So it made things tough until I got up there and started to realize I could compete against those guys.”
Returning from summer ball, COVID-19 cut Black’s sophomore season short. Black was still able to post a 3.68 ERA in his four starts as the team’s ace.
Black was then faced with the challenge of pitching in Florida’s premier wood bat summer collegiate baseball league, the South Florida College Baseball League, which has totaled over 170 MLB draft picks in the 10 years since the league’s inception.
“I got on the phone with the president of the league, and he told me they didn’t have any spots because the league was overloaded, as it was the only summer ball league playing,” Leary said. “As cordially as I could say it, I said ‘I promise you won’t regret it if you find spots for [my pitchers],’”
Black earned Pitcher of the Year after going 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA, allowing just 10 hits in 28 innings with 42 strikeouts in Florida.
After finishing his collegiate career breaking the single-season strikeout record for Lehigh and earning Patriot League Pitcher of the Year, Black now looks to be the fourth Lehigh player playing for an MLB organization.
Mark Washington was drafted during the 2017 MLB Draft in the 25th round and is currently in Double-A for the Dodgers affiliate Tulsa Drillers.
Levi Stoudt and Jason Reynolds were picked in the 2019 draft. Stoudt was picked in the third round, and Reynolds was picked in the 32nd round.
Black comes from a baseball family, as his dad played at Lackawanna College and his brother was named Freshman All-American as an infielder for Monmouth University in 2021. He said he looks to lean on his family and former teammates for support as he begins his own professional career.
“I’m an extension of Lehigh, of the baseball program, of the engineering department, of the entire school,” Black said. “I am trying to carry the lessons of how important relationships are and how important it is to be the same person on the field and off the field.”