Diamond Jacks Super 17 lefty Joe Masio has committed to St. John’s (Hannahally Photography)
St. Johns University pitching coach George Brown was in the process of checking boxes in the recruitment of Joe Mascio of Bishop Eustace Prep and the Diamond Jacks Super 17 squad.
Brown’s final stop on that checklist was legendary Bishop Eustace coach Sam Tropiano and ‘Trop,’ as he is affectionately known in the South Jersey baseball community, had nothing but praise for his rising senior lefthander.
“I guess I was the last person he spoke to about Joe because he said, ‘Well, that completes it. Not one person has said a negative thing about him and everyone had something good to say about him.’ St. John’s was told by everyone what a serious player Joe is and what an excellent teammate he is.”
Mascio, who joined the Diamond Jacks program as a 16 year-old, was dropped into that same recruiting wasteland created by the COVID-19 pandemic as the rest of the 2020 high school juniors. It’s a class that first lost their high school season to the virus then saw Division 1 coaches prohibited from recruiting them in person the entire summer.
“When we heard about school closing in March we figured we’d be back in two weeks,” said Mascio. “Then we were told there would be no season. I don’t think I started worrying about being recruited until June or July. We learned it would be much more difficult for college coaches to see you play. Video became so important at that point.”
Facing a new, more challenging recruiting landscape, Mascio did have a few advantages working for him. The Diamond Jacks began playing intrasquad scrimmages and Diamond Nation itself fired back up in early July. That meant his development would quickly get back on track. Diamond Nation’s recruiting arm, steered by Steve DiTrolio, simply went into overdrive in its efforts to find viable homes for its players. Mascio also offered the full package of natural athletic ability with noticeable upside and something else that will always draw a college coach’s attention.
“Coach Brown said I have a good mind for the game as a pitcher,” said Mascio.
That is not surprising to hear considering what a high achiever Mascio is off the field. He boasts a 4.7 weighted GPA at Bishop Eustace and is taking four Advanced Placement courses this school year. “I take a lot of pride in my grades,” he said. Tropiano is, in fact, Mascio’s AP Psychology teacher.
Mascio, drawn to colleges with high academic standards, considered some Ivy League and Patriot League programs. “I was looking at schools in the northeast, because I like the setting. I wanted to find a high academic school that emphasized a good baseball program.”
Mascio was in the middle of a strong summer with the Super 17 squad when the recruitment process began to accelerate.
“Ditro reached out to coach Brown for me,” said Mascio. “He saw video of me and really liked what he saw.”
Mascio had met Brown at Diamond Nation’s College Elite Showcase Camp in August of 2019. Brown was one of several college coaches running the camp and schooling the high school players on the finer physical and mental points of the college game. It’s one of the more popular and successful showcases Diamond Nation runs each year. “I started coming up on the radar then,” said Mascio.
“Joe fit right in with an already polished pitching staff and threw some big innings for us along the way,” said DiTrolio about the 2019 Super 16 squad. “It wasn’t hard to get him on the radar at St. John’s, coming from two very successful programs, ours and Eustace’s.”
Mascio kept doing the things on the mound that draw college coaches’ attention.
“Coach Brown saw me pitch and I liked what he had to say,” said Mascio. “I went up to St. John’s last fall for an intrasquad scrimmage.” So, some groundwork had been completed in Mascio’s recruitment before COVID hit in March.
“Coach Ditro was the one who reached out to St. John’s, asking them to take a look at me,” says Mascio. “He’s always taken my future seriously, always looked out for what’s best for me.”
It did seem, come the summer of 2020, it was just a matter of time for Mascio to find an attractive Division 1 home.
“Coach Brown called me in August and said he really liked the way I’m able to pitch. He said he liked that I’m a good commander out there. He’s a lefty, too, so he understands me.” Brown was the Big East Pitcher of the Year in 2008 when he went 9-1 with a 2.91 ERA. He boasts a career record of 22-3 at St. John’s.
The 6-0, 190 Mascio committed to St. John’s on August 12 and Brown was a big reason he came to that decision. “Coach Brown is a good guy and I know he’ll help me grow and develop in college.”
Mascio throws two-seam and four-seam fastballs, a slider and a changeup, giving batters much to consider. He is, most certainly, more of a craftsman out on the mound than a heaver.
“Pitching is all about being disruptive,” says Mascio. “I’ve recently worked on trying to master my changeup. It’s getting better. I like the way it complements my two- and four-seamers. I try to get a guy to chase the slider on two strikes but I also like using it in certain counts.”
Mascio did get a taste of the high school season this summer via the 222-team Last Dance Tournament that played down to a single champion. Bishop Eustace, which had entered the spring season ranked in the Top 10 in the state, reached the final four of the tournament. Mascio was 2-0 in the tournament before losing to Jackson in the South final. Jackson had been ranked No. 1 in the preseason. Jackson would be stunned by upstart Cranford in the final. Ryan Jaros, a Georgia Tech-bound junior at Cranford and a member of the Diamond Jacks Super 16U team, was one of the stars of the Cougars’ amazing run.
“I feel like I pitched my best during the Last Dance,” says Mascio. “We finished fourth, which is a great accomplishment.”
Mascio transitioned from there to focus his attention on the Diamond Jacks Super 17 summer tournament schedule. “It was a grind,” he said. “I just focused on giving my team a chance to win and getting better every game.”
As Mascio transitions now into the “off-season,” he says his schedule becomes more hectic. Super 17 ends its season this weekend with the Halloween Mash tournament at Diamond Nation.
“It’s a very busy time for me, juggling going to the gym, working out, school work. But I wouldn’t trade it,” he says. “I love playing with the DJacks. They are family to me. They’re always positive, they work hard and I really enjoy being with my teammates.”
Mascio will soon be back with his high school teammates, too, as they help Tropiano, already South Jersey’s winningest coach, reach career victory 700. Tropiano (686-251-1) is only 14 wins shy of a milestone reached by only five other high school coaches in New Jersey; Kenny Frank of Toms River South, Marty Kenny of Christian Brothers, Mike Sheppard, Jr. of Seton Hall Prep, Tony Ferrainolo of Memorial (WNY) and Harry Shatel of Morristown.
“Coach Tropiano is just a great guy in general,” says Mascio. “He’s always positive and always looks out for his players’ best interests. He’s been great to me since I was a freshman. I’ll always remember him saying back then, ‘As a pitcher, you have to have confidence and trust yourself. If you can control yourself and execute, you’ll be good. He trusted me my freshman year and I’m thankful he gave me that opportunity.”
Tropiano has been blessed with great talent during his 30 years at Bishop Eustace and Arizona Diamondbacks’ righthander Zac Gallen (3-2, 2.75 ERA in 2020) is just one example of that depth. So, Trop’ is always impressed when a freshman can come into his program and earn varsity starts, like Mascio did.
“Rarely do we have a freshman come in and pitch right away,” said Tropiano. “He was 3-1 with a bunch of saves and pitched in some big games, including against St. Augustine in the Diamond Classic semifinals. Joe’s greatest strength is how mentally tough he is. He’s a very disciplined kid in everything he’s done. He’s never seen a ‘B’ in his life. He’s such a hardworking kid and that translates to the mound.
“He’s not a kid you ever have to worry about. He’ll do all the right things to be mentally prepared to be a winner.”
DiTrolio saw those qualities in Mascio when he arrived to the Diamond Jacks two years ago.
“Joe came to our program highly recommended by the Bishop Eustace coaching staff,” said DiTrolio. “It didn’t take long for us to see what they were raving about. The kid can flat out pitch. I wouldn’t call him a typical lefthander, but he embraces all the qualities of why left-handed pitchers are usually at a premium. The good ones give trouble to both right and left hand bats.”
Mascio plans to major in finance at St. John’s.