T.J. Hose couldn’t wait to get home and tell his wife.
In the nearly six years Hose has worked as a pitching coordinator in the Mid-Atlantic Red Sox elite travel baseball organization, he has enjoyed coming home and telling his wife about the talented players he gets to work with. And Casey, a former volleyball player who enjoys sports, likes hearing about them.
But you can count on one hand the times that Hose has come home this excited about a player, and after knowing him for only a few hours.
“I said, ‘Casey, you probably are going to think I am crazy right now. But I just [met] a 14-year-old that’s going to be pretty damn good. He’s going to be special,’” Hose recalled.
The 14-year-old Hose was talking about was Thurmont native Mason Albright, who, roughly five years later, is one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the country and has a good chance of being selected in the early to middle rounds of the Major League Baseball Draft, which begins Sunday with the first round and continues Monday with rounds 2 through 10 and Tuesday with rounds 11 through 20.
What knocked Hose’s socks off about Albright right away that put him on Cloud Nine for that car ride home?
“Just his attention to detail and how coachable he was,” Hose said. “He was able to make an adjustment right away, even at a young age. ... If he didn’t understand, he would ask questions. ‘Well, how do I do this? What are drills that allow me to do this?’”
Ever since that initial meeting, Albright, by his own admission, has transformed from a player that didn’t have much of a plan when he pitched — “I was just getting up on the mound and throwing the ball,” he said — to a mechanically polished technician that knows what he wants to do with just about every pitch.
Albright, 18, generates effortless velocity with a smaller frame (5-foot-11, 185 pounds). The ball jumps and flies out of his hand, Hose said. His fastball has sizzled at 95 mph on some radar guns and could tick a notch or two higher with more work and refinement.
“T.J. has built me, man,” Albright said of Hose. “I am grateful he has been able to be my pitching coach. We have just developed this great relationship, and he knows what works best for me. I have learned so much just being with him.”
Last August, Albright decided to forgo his senior season at Catoctin High School and enroll in the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where he would earn his diploma while training alongside some of the most talented baseball prospects in the country on a plush campus dotted with palm trees.
“It was an eye-opening experience for me,” Albright said of his roughly nine months on the 600-acre IMG campus that is known for churning out professional athletes.
Albright would attend classes in the morning. He said he studied statistics, public speaking, psychology and marine science. Then, he would grab lunch and spend the rest of the day on a baseball diamond in either a practice or a game.
The IMG National team that Albright was a part of played at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers, in Arlington, Texas, and in Alabama and Georgia.
“It’s something that is second to none,” Albright said of his experience at IMG. “Not many high schools have a campus like that, where they have three dorm complexes for kids to stay. That’s a high school you just don’t see across the country. It was definitely awesome being able to spend my senior year there.”
Depending on where he might get drafted, Albright could have a difficult decision to make.
He has already committed to play Division I college baseball at Virginia Tech. But if the signing bonus attached to his draft status is large enough, he could be persuaded to forgo his college career and enter the professional ranks right away.
Albright said he has discussed the scenario with his family, but wouldn’t divulge what it would take to get him to turn pro right away.
“Obviously, it’s super exciting for me and my family,” said Albright, who grew up with a ball and glove in his hand and followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Justin, who played for Catoctin and enjoyed a Division I college career at George Washington University.
“I honestly never thought I’d be saying that I could potentially be getting drafted out of high school. That’s just something not every kid gets to experience.”
Something else most kids don’t get to experience? Pitching at Fenway Park, which Albright did earlier this week as part of a pre-draft camp. He is rated as the 122nd best prospect on Major League Baseball’s website heading into the draft.
“The more I think about [the draft], I don’t want to get stressed out about it because, either way, I am going to Virginia Tech or I’m going to become a professional baseball player,” Albright said. “So, it’s a situation in life where I can say, whatever option I go with, is a win-win.”