CENTER RIDGE — Although Mason Faulkner was not able to pitch one game for the Nemo Vista Red Hawks baseball team this year, the 17-year-old is still going to college on a baseball scholarship. He will attend Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri.
Mason’s high school pitching days were cut short when on July 14, he was pitching a game with the Arkansas Express traveling team at Crowder College.
“I felt a sharp pain in my elbow,” he said. “I had never felt that kind of pain before. It was excruciating.
“Then I threw another pitch and felt the pain again. I called out my pitching coach and told him about it.
“I left the game and rested. I went back into the game, threw one pitch and felt the same pain again.”
Mason said he returned home and went in for an MRI as soon as he could.
“It showed I had a torn UCL (ulnar collateral ligament),” he said. “Everything stopped. I have played baseball since I was in ninth grade. If I wasn’t pitching, I was catching.”
Mason went in for Tommy John surgery on Aug. 7.
“To repair it, they removed the UCL and replaced it with a ligament taken from my right wrist. Some people aren’t even born with that wrist ligament, so you don’t really miss it.”
According to information from en.wikipedia.org and www.web
md.com, Tommy John surgery was named for Tommy John, a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who, in 1974, was the first to have the surgery. Dr. Frank Jobe, the team physician, invented the surgery. John returned to pitching in 1976 and played baseball until 1989.
“I’m still recovering,” Mason said. However, he was able to play some for his team — batting, playing first and second base and a little shortstop.
He said the coaches at Crowder College don’t seem to be too worried about his surgery and rehabilitation.
“When I went up for my visit, they told me they have five kids who have had Tommy John surgery,” Mason said. “I’ve been worried about it, about not being able to pitch again.
“If I am not able to pitch, I still will play baseball,” he said. “I’ve thought about playing second base. And I’ve been able to catch a couple of games. That’s not as stressful as pitching.”
Mason said he has always wanted to be a pitcher.
“My dad played baseball at the University of Central Arkansas,” said Mason, who is the son of Perry and Jalene Faulkner, both graduates of Nemo Vista. Jalene graduated in 1985 and Perry in 1986.
Mason has an older brother, Miles, 22, who also graduated from the local high school in 2009 and played baseball.
Jalene’s parents also graduated from Nemo Vista. Her mother, Allene Prince, graduated in 1955. Her father, J.W. Prince, graduated in 1945 and was on the 1944 state basketball championship team.
Jalene is in her 23rd year of teaching math at Nemo Vista. Perry is a certified public accountant and has been employed for more than 20 years in the financial office of the city of Conway.
Mason said he chose Crowder College because “it is rich in tradition in baseball.”
“I play summer ball with the Arkansas Express. We traveled all over, including trips to Crowder. It felt like the best fit for me. It’s a small school, 5,500 students, just south of Joplin.”
He said the Crowder College baseball team took second place in this year’s South Central District Tournament.
Mason will be among the 34 seniors to graduate from the local high school in ceremonies planned for 7 p.m. today in the school gymnasium. He is an honor graduate.
Mason said he plans to get an Associate of Arts degree in pre-veterinary medicine at Crowder College.
“Then, hopefully, I can come back to Arkansas Tech University and complete my basics before going on to Mississippi State University veterinarian school,” he said.
While in high school, Mason was a member of FFA, Beta Club, Future Business Leaders of America and the Student Council. He also played basketball.
The Faulkners own 254 acres near Center Ridge where they raise Fleckvieh cattle. In fact, Mason has his own herd of cattle.
“I have six cows,” he said with a smile. “I do chores on the farm every day.
“I hope one day to be able to come back here and work as a veterinarian.”
Mason said that with all of the rehabilitation he has done on his pitching arm, “I hope I will be able to play ball this fall.”
That comment prompted Jalene to add: “He’s going to ride that baseball train as long as he can.”