Mason Studstill is good enough.
A standout player at USA Baseball's 17U National Team East championships, the 16-year-old has impressed both on the mound and at the plate, and he's doing it with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. But that's what might help him to achieve his lifelong dream of donning the red, white and blue, if he moves on from the event to the National Team Development Program.
"He got told at an early age that he wasn't good enough, and he went to work," said Jim Owens, head coach of Studstill's Beyel Brothers Bulldogs team. "He's been working every day since. He's completely changed his body, if he needed pitching lessons he would go get them, if he needed hitting lessons, he and his dad would keep on working.
"They've got a cage at their house and they don't stop working. If he needed to get a little faster, he's out running the sand dunes local to our area. He's everything you read about—the exceptional athlete getting to their dream. And his dream is USA Baseball."
A legitimate two-way player, Studstill is a 5-foot-11, 185-pound righthander and third baseman who bats in the heart of the order for the Bulldogs. He's also the same young man who hit a record-breaking seven home runs two years ago in the Junior Little League World Series, including two in Rockledge's championship win.
So, when exactly wasn't he good enough?
"The coaching staff of (his first travel) team told him, 'You're not good enough, you're not pitching for us in big situations, we'll play you on the B team, you're not going to get any at-bats," Owens said. "He and his father, credit to them, instead of quitting or saying they were going to go to another team, stayed on that team and followed them around the whole Southeast, chasing tournaments, sitting on the bench, and kept on working.
"Now that team wishes they could have him back … My son was his catcher and has been catching him for six years and said, 'Wherever I go, I want him to go.' So … everywhere we've gone, I've taken him. People have said that he can't bat third, or he won't be a hitter in college, but I keep on sticking him there and Miami came calling."
Studstill committed to the University of Miami after a recent visit to the school. He quickly fell in love with the program, the coaches, and everything the campus had to offer. He's looking forward to seeing how far he can take his career as a two-way player with the Hurricanes.
"I'm just letting the game decide which one I'll do later on," Studstill said. "I love doing both and hopefully I can keep doing well and help my team out. Ever since I was a little kid I've always worked on both pitching and hitting."
Throwing a fastball, curveball, slider and changeup, the native of Titusville, Fla., says pitching just comes naturally to him. His biggest strength at the plate is hitting for power to all fields, but it's something that he has to spend a lot more time on.
"I have the same level of comfort with both," Studstill said. "Some days you feel better at one, but I try to go out there and do well at both … I normally spend a lot of time hitting. Me and my dad go to the field every day and just work on the basics of hitting."
It's that work ethic and drive that has helped the teenager in finding more sustained success of late.
"He's gone from a short, little, pudgy kid with a decent arm to a complete athlete—speed, power, hands, and he's exceptional in all areas," Owens said. "Power is what he's known for, but he is a gamer.
"Everybody thinks he is just a power player swinging for the fences, but he will drop a bunt down if I need him to without a doubt. He will use all the tools he has and he's never afraid to take the ball in a big spot. He doesn't shy away from any adversity."
On the mound, Owens believes Studstill comes out on top for the same reasons. On top of a fastball that can get up to 93 at its peak, the young hurler has shown more impressive command and control than almost any other player in Jupiter, just a credit to the time that he puts in.
"It's his work ethic and having a motion that repeats over and over again," Owens said. "He's not all arms and legs, he's very in-tune with his body, has a good arm slot, and is able to make corrections on the mound day to day. If he feels good that day he stays with it and if he feels something is off, he'll go to another pitch, but he's able to repeat that delivery."
No matter what jersey he wears, Owens believes any squad would be better off for having Studstill on their roster.
"He has great respect for his coaching staff and his teammates," Owens said. "He represents the name on the front of the shirt and the one on the back of the shirt equally. He takes pride in his presentation and how well he represents everybody."
During his time in Jupiter, Studstill is focused on representing the Bulldogs, but also hoping to step up into another uniform in the near future.
"It would be a lifelong dream to wear the USA jersey," he said. "My dad and I have always been working on that and hopefully I'll be able to get that chance."