Tournaments : : Story
Sunday, July 12, 2015

Playing for more than a win

Chris Garcia        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – Across the spectrum at this year’s 16u WWBA National Championship you can find talent on almost every field. Some people were born with this talent, natural ability and size, and some have had to rely on hard work. Some are not as fortunate, and were welcomed into life already having a physical ailment that they would have to battle against if they didn’t want to be limited by it.

That is the story of young Elliot Mast.

Elliot was born with a club foot, and it more than likely would have taken away his ability to play the sport that he loves; baseball. His parents decided to have him go through with an operation that would correct his foot through the service of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh when he was just a child. The operation was successful, and Mast has been able to chase his dream of playing baseball.

So far it has turned out pretty well for him, as he continues to chase his dream of playing baseball, and yet another, thanks to his 6-foot-3 frame, powerful bat and 87-89 mph fastball.

Although Mast has the characteristics of your everyday college baseball prospect, he is way different than your average 16-year old amateur baseball player. Mast has turned his success in baseball into a way to raise money for childrens hospitals in an effort to give back to them because of the experience that he had whilst going through the correction of his club foot. Mast is a member of the Flood City Elite 2017, a participant in this year’s 16u WWBA National Championship, and he has made the long trip from Altoona, Pa., with two goals in mind: to win some baseball games and to continue his charitable efforts through his foundation “For The Kids!,” or FTK for short.

Many people know Mast for his energy on the field, and his caring personality off the field. His goal with this FTK charity is to inspire the youth. Dealt with that kind of disability at birth, one could easily throw away all aspirations to chase athletic greatness, but Mast wants to show kids that they can do anything they put their mind to if they believe in themselves and work hard enough. While in Georgia for the 16u WWBA National Championship, Mast plans to visit Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta between games to talk with kids and offer encouragement.

Mast started FTK back in February of 2010 when he was only 11 years old. Most little leaguers aren’t focused on much besides baseball and what’s on television, but even at such a young age, Mast’s selfless disposition pushed him to sign an agreement that would partner him up with the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital Foundation in order to raise awareness and donations. Since his 2010 Little League Season, Mast – who is now 16 years old – has raised more than $19,000 for the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital Child life program.

Mast has used various social media outlets to spread his message as far as it can go. He has made multiple YouTube videos, Facebook posts and pages, and tweets about FTK. He is always trying to do everything that he can to help his cause, despite that he is in the midst of a very important part of his recruiting process.

My dad helps me with a lot of the charity stuff, so whenever I have to put in work for baseball, I can go do that knowing that everything with FTK will be alright,” Mast said. “Balancing baseball and the charity; it merges pretty well. There are never really any conflicts, and I’ve been able to do well enough to gain a decent amount of attention from colleges.”

In a sense, Mast uses this charity as motivation to play even harder on the field. For every home run, base hit and strikeout that Mast records he will raise money for the children’s hospital. It is certainly a noble way to go about playing the game of baseball, and he has been fortunate enough to get some key contributors to join his cause.

On top of using social media efforts, Mast has also garnered support from many professional athletes, minor league teams and different corporations. Some of those supporters include the Altoona Curve, Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu, Cubs Pitcher Paul Maholm, EvoShield, Jaeger Sports, Phoenix Bats and Honda. Mast is thrilled with the amount of support that he has received with FTK and is grateful to everyone who has helped him with this journey of giving back to children’s hospitals.

It’s awesome,” Mast said of the support. “Being able to get support from older folks, and especially when they’re celebrities and athletes. It’s just great to see that people can give to a little kid for such a small cause. Seeing people care and do that kind of stuff is amazing.”

When it comes to college ball, Mast is a couple of years away from setting foot on campus, but he already has a pretty good idea of where he wants to go.

I’d like to go somewhere down south,” Mast added. “I’ve gotten a couple of offers from schools like Virginia Tech, Pitt and VCU. I really liked VCU. I’m just looking for good coaches, a strong program (and a) winning season. I just want a good group of guys to play ball with. It’s also nice to be down south, compared to the coldness up north.”

Mast is always looking for a way to step his game up, and plans to work tirelessly over the next couple of years in order to be the best ball player that he can be. Even while he is working to better himself, he will also be striving to raise as much money as he can for as long as he can.

In terms of both baseball and his FTK charity, the sky is the limit for Mast.

I’ve been working on my speed and explosiveness,” Mast said of his own personal achievements. “I’ve just recently started seeing the ball well, so that’s nice. It’s awesome to be down here as well, and compete against the best competition in the country. While working on my baseball skills, I also just want to continue to raise as much money as I can. We’re at 20 (thousand) right now over the past four years, and we’re going to keep on going for as long as we can.”

Thus far, Elliot has been fully immersed into the 16u WWBA National Championship tournament and is ready to turn some heads as his team heads into the halfway point of pool play tomorrow. On Sunday night they took the field against the Texas Blackhawks with their mind set on playing winning baseball, as they hope to put their record at 2-1, which would put them right up there with other top teams in their pool.

They were successful in their efforts and defeated the Blackhawks 4-0 behind the arm of Corey Storm. They have already dropped one game, so it is imperative they win everything from here on out if they want to have a chance of advancing to the playoffs. As part of Flood City Eite's success Mast has been playing well, and even hit a home run in one of their early games. He hopes that his team can pick the bats up and score runs early and often.

We just need to play hard,” Mast said of his team's chances in the tournament. “We have good pitching, but we have to get the bats swinging. We’ve played with each other for a long time so once we get that going, we should be alright.”

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