The conversation Mason Sawyer had with his father several years ago regarding his future in baseball is one he remembers well.
If the Hartley senior considered playing catcher, he was told, it could open a myriad of opportunities.
"It's definitely not a desired position, but my dad was like, 'If you want to play high-level ball in the future, this is the quickest way to get you there," said Sawyer, who recently committed to play for University of the Cumberlands, an NAIA school in Williamsburg, Kentucky. "I started baseball when I was about 3 or 4 and started catching when I was right around 10 and it took off from there."
At 6-foot, 210 pounds, Sawyer's size fits well with the position his father, Hawks coach Chris Sawyer, suggested he play.
The skills he's developed have further backed that up.
Sawyer emerged as Hartley's starting catcher by the end of his freshman season. As a sophomore, he batted .400 with two home runs, 22 RBI and 16 runs scored and was named second-team all-district in Division II, as the Hawks won their first district championship since winning the Division IV state title in 1996.
Last spring, Sawyer hit .422 with seven home runs and 41 RBI and made first-team all-district and all-state as the Hawks were district runners-up.
"You never know for sure, because you don't know how somebody is going to adjust from little kid baseball to varsity baseball, but when he was a freshman, we had a need at catcher and kind of put him in there and he did that stuff on his own," said Chris Sawyer, who took over as Hawks coach in 2016. "The best thing to say was that he made the most out of his opportunity. As a coach, it's nice to have him there and know that he's someone you can count on."
This spring, Mason regularly kept in shape and worked on his baseball skills with his father before the spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
"I'm now his surrogate lifting partner, his running partner, his (batting practice) guy," said Chris Sawyer, who has been a teacher and an assistant football coach at Hartley since 2008. "We work out six days a week, hitting the baseball and working on his defensive stuff. He's doing all he can do to keep his skills sharp.
"Mason is the type of kid who's going to be successful because he's an unbelievable worker. He's a very humble guy."
Mason Sawyer also was a standout football player for Hartley. He served as a long snapper as a freshman when the Hawks won the Division IV state championship and was a key player at running back and linebacker the last three seasons, rushing for eight touchdowns in both his junior and senior seasons.
Last fall, Sawyer was named district Defensive Player of the Year as the Hawks reached a Division III state semifinal and finished 12-2.
"Baseball-wise, it's been really fulfilling," he said. "I'm not really into football as much as I am into baseball and I'm not into this body-beating that football gives you. In football, beating DeSales my sophomore year was one of my best memories. Senior year, beating them was awesome, but sophomore year I didn't really do anything all game and then we called in a power package and we got the win in the last minute. Senior year was probably the best year."
Sawyer's family resides near the border of Canal Winchester and Pickerington. His mother, Tammy, previously worked in TV production and his younger sister, Emma, is a freshman who planned to compete for the Hawks' girls lacrosse team this spring.
All of those influences have had an impact on what he's considering studying in college.
"For the longest time I wanted to be a dentist, but then I started thinking of sports broadcasting," Sawyer said. "My mom worked at 10TV for the longest time and I think it'll be fun."